September 27, 2022
How to tackle climate adaptation in our homes and buildings
The UK is starting to experience more extreme weather that climate science has been saying for decades, but now it is becoming more prevalent. Continuing to break new record temperatures, we must face the reality that our homes and buildings need to be better-equipped to mitigate sweltering temperatures. Our expert Andrew Mather shares ways to adapt homes and buildings.
article first published on constructionnews.co.uk
By Andrew Mather.
The issue of double materiality
When thinking about market changes, a current hot topic in sustainability reporting is the concept of single materiality versus double materiality. Single materiality covers what impacts are important to the company, while double materiality includes the return aspect of what effects the company has on the environment and society.
“Adopting holistic solutions that consider the societal impact and seek broader social value creation should be the priority”
Key learnings for the building sector
In order for the UK to adapt its buildings to hotter weather, there are a number of learnings we can take, both from nature and other countries.
Green infrastructure, such as parks and local ecosystems, can play a key role in helping to cool urban environments during a heatwave. Similarly, introducing more vegetation in local communities can help to reduce the effects of overheating.
Furthermore, the UK could benefit from implementing tried and tested heat-mitigation techniques from southern European countries – including planning techniques such as building orientation, reducing glass on south-facing facades, prioritising passive ventilation design, and incorporating building features such as exterior shading, light-coloured exterior surfaces and green facades.
These changes can be incorporated relatively easily into UK housing design, and often carry the co-benefits of mitigating other climate risks, reducing energy fuel costs and increasing the wellbeing of residents.
The key challenge is overcoming any capital expenditure uplift – something that is much lower for new-builds than retrofit solutions. However, there are significant operational expenditure benefits and these will influence property value.
The way forward
The world is changing more rapidly than many expect, but we are often struggling to implement solutions that are technically within our reach. What are the keys to unlocking action now?
Firstly, strong policy is urgently needed to build upon the latest building regulations and mandate climate adaptation in our building stock. This should include existing homes, as well as new-builds, and raising minimum standards to implement the climate readiness all our homes need.
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) should be expanded into the Minimum Climate Adaptation Standards, including a rating for heat mitigation and other climate hazards. This would bring the joined-up thinking in planning, design and operation that we urgently need.
Secondly, we need a nationwide government programme with financial backing to improve our housing stock. This should incentivise homeowners and landlords to build resilience into their homes, such as Italy’s scheme where homeowners are given a tax break equivalent to 110 per cent to undertake improvements to reduce climate risk.
“Nature-based solutions and other options are far more beneficial overall”
The government spend will create significant benefits for occupiers, as well as improving our energy security, reducing carbon emissions, reducing fuel bills and, ultimately, reducing pressure on our health services in extreme temperatures.
Finally, better communication of climate adaptation throughout the industry and among the public is needed, along with an understanding that a hierarchy of measures should be followed that incorporates double materiality concerns.
Investors and homeowners should be aware that nature-based solutions and other options are far more beneficial overall than just jumping straight to air-conditioning without knowledge or concern for its impact on others.
Our climate is changing, and having an impact on our homes and lives. While we have many of the solutions we need to adapt, we desperately need bold policies to influence the housing market and integrated design learning from nature.
If we don’t get the message this summer, we will surely be given reminders in future years.
Want to know more?
Director Strategic Sustainability
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