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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Question Time April


When it comes to designing a new project, how important is the issue of accommodating a certain climate or environment? 


Considering the climate and environment when it comes to designing a new project is now becoming a much more necessary issue. In the wake of the devastating floods, which occurred up and down the UK throughout January and February, and the unpredictable nature of weather nowadays, we are asking will architects be taking more notice of the world around them when it comes to designing a new project?


What exactly must be considered in new builds when it comes to protecting the end result from the effects of poor weather and the country’s climate and what responsibility do architectural firms have when it comes to ensuring such measures are in place? 



Alasdair Galloway, Architectural Technologist, SHH


It is essential that designs for all new buildings fully consider the surrounding environment, which includes the local climate, as well as the site??s cultural, economic, technological and architectural context. With so much current legislative emphasis on measures to prevent climate change, it??s also important to remember just how vital it is to create built-in adaptability as however strong the mitigating measures, buildings will never fully prevent climate change and therefore architects must also allow for their buildings to adapt.  

Designing for change means that buildings must be resilient to a wider range of conditions than have previously been addressed. In terms of climate, these challenges may include heavier precipitation, higher winds, milder and wetter winters (all of which the UK has recently experienced), as well as hotter, drier summers, rising sea levels and increases in pests. These challenges and their effects need to be considered over the full lifetime of a development too, to ensure that the final environment isn??t too uncomfortable or expensive to maintain and doesn??t pose health risks or become uninsurable. If these issues are not properly considered, a building may have an even wider negative impact, contributing additional problems to the surrounding area. 

Practical solutions depend on the area and climate in question, but, topically, in relation to flooding, we can:

?? raise habitable spaces above ground level to minimise damage

?? use sunken sports courts or lowered urban areas to form lakes or water features during heavy rainfall

?? use materials that can dry out with minimal damage

?? construct wetlands, sedum roofs and other ecologically-based systems to manage rainwater

?? create breakaway wall panels on piled foundations to allow floodwaters to pass under a building

?? design chambers below buildings to act as a sewage overflow.

The majority of these strategies are relatively straightforward and can be achieved with the added bonus that they also help to mitigate climate change, improve durability and reduce building operating costs.



Polly Turton, Senior Consultant, Arup


There is an overwhelming global scientific consensus that the world??s climate is warming, altering weather patterns both in terms of averages and extremes. This is very likely due to increased global greenhouse-gas concentrations resulting from human activity. This is set to continue, with extreme weather events (and increasingly severe repercussions) likely to occur more and more frequently and intensely, providing we remain on our current ??path?? of economic growth and development. In fact, weather events that are currently regarded as ??extreme?? are useful illustrations of what is projected to be ??normal?? in future. 

For built environment professionals and the design and construction industry as a whole, this means pursuing the low-energy, low-carbon design agenda that is increasingly embedded in legislation and codes, whilst recognising that we need to design differently in order to adapt to seemingly inevitable changes. 

The impacts of climate change are particularly pertinent to us because buildings and built environments last a long time. Our existing built environment, and every aspect of how we live our lives, has evolved in response to a particular climate. Now that climate is changing, and may soon be significantly different.

As a result, we face a real challenge in designing new buildings and converting and upgrading our existing urban fabric to function in a climate for which it was not originally designed. We need to rethink the way we design, construct, upgrade and occupy buildings to accommodate this, developing approaches that are based not on historic weather data, but calculated projections of future climate. 

For inspiration, the UK Technology Strategy Board??s ??Design for future climate?? competition (2010-2014) has generated a lot of valuable ideas and information about how and what built environment professionals are, could and should be doing in response to climate change impacts. For further information please visit:  https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/design-for-future-climate/projects-outputs



John Rich, partner and co-founder Stubbs Rich


We??re already seeing more intense and heavier rainfall ?? the British Standard was updated in 2000 to reflect climate change. This means we need more resilient rainwater disposal systems in our built environment.

Whereas grass or agricultural land absorbs rainfall steadily, rainfall on a building runs off very quickly. To avoid a sudden overflow into storm water drains, we need to specify Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), whereby rainfall is directed to area of absorbent ground. Or we can specify a ??balancing pond?? on site to store rainfall, which can then be released at a controlled rate back into the storm drains over several hours.

It??s also important to think more carefully about flood risk management. We have built in flood plains for centuries; it??s not a new thing. But flood levels are rising.  As a result, the Environment Agency (EA) is reassessing flood risk levels upwards, and some properties previously considered to be outside flood risk are now within. Furthermore, we??ve traditionally designed to allow for the flood level of a one in one hundred-year major storm, but, according to EA guidelines, we now need to factor in a water level 20 ?? 30% above this event to allow for climate change.  

We clearly need to make buildings in the flood plain more flood resistant. This means designing and specifying flood resistant doors and windows. We??ll need to make more use of flood barriers and explore innovative solutions such as floating buildings if we??re to continue building in food plains. And this seems probable given the shortage of development land. However, these approaches don??t come cheap.

Energy consumption and carbon levels are known problems, designing for the extreme weather caused by climate change is a new challenge


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