Oliver Neve

May 18, 2023

Finding new ways to adapt buildings to a more extreme climate

Is the building you are likely sitting in right now suitable and prepared  a more extreme climate? Chances are that it isn’t and this needs to change as extreme weather will occur more frequently in the future, due to climate changes.

In recent years, the impacts of climate change have become increasingly evident, affecting numerous aspects of human life, including the built environment. Europe is no exception, facing an array of predicted climate changes, such as heat waves, storms, flooding, and freezing temperatures. To meet this new reality, buildings must be adapted to secure the well-being of its users and occupants. The heatwave across Europe in 2022 broke multiple records[1] and led to devastating excess deaths[2]. Within Europe we spend around 90% of our time in buildings[3], making it crucial to prioritise climate resilience in buildings to mitigate these risks and safeguard the well-being of communities.
Consequently the EU has commissioned the EU-level technical guidance on adapting buildings to climate change, produced by Ramboll, to help answer these challenges
4 key reasons to make buildings climate resilient
Climate resilience refers to the ability of a building to adapt to changing environmental conditions and withstand extreme weather events while minimizing disruptions to its occupants. In the face of climate change, enhancing the resilience of buildings in Europe is essential for the following reasons:
  1. Protecting human lives: With more frequent and intense extreme weather events, buildings that lack resilience can pose significant risks to the lives of inhabitants.
  2. Ensuring economic stability: The direct and indirect costs associated with repairing or rebuilding structures damaged by extreme weather can be staggering. Climate-resilient buildings can help reduce these costs, contributing to the overall economic stability of communities and nations.
  3. Preserving cultural heritage: Many European cities are known for their historic architecture, which holds significant cultural and historical value. Protecting these structures from the ravages of climate change is vital for preserving Europe's cultural heritage.
  4. Supporting sustainable development: By constructing climate-resilient buildings, Europe can contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to sustainable cities and communities, climate action, and responsible consumption and production.
Social and financial sustainable solutions
None of the above reasons are new, but why aren’t we preparing ourselves for buildings to be more climate resilient? Arguably humans by their very nature are short-sighted and focus on immediate gratification. This can be in terms of avoiding climate resilience measures in the pursuit of a reduction in short-term costs, but we know that there is a long-term impact.
For example, your building may be suitable today, but fast forward only a short period of time and it could be exposed to much more extreme climatic conditions and ultimately become uninhabitable or a stranded asset. Focusing on the long-term solution becomes the most sustainable from a social and financial perspective.
Making sense of climate resilient buildings.
The built environment is particularly at risk from climate change, with considerable potential damages and losses to buildings. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report 6 (AR6) states that: ‘Information on climate risks needs to be embedded into the architectural design, delivery and retrofitting of housing.’
Changing our approach with the new EU guidance
Within the EU-level technical guidance on adapting buildings to climate change, the document leverages the EU Taxonomy-defined climate-related hazards and then further refines them by identifying priority hazards significantly impact a building and its users.

Classification of climate-related hazards (with priority hazards highlighted in blue)

The list of climate-related hazards in this table is non-exhaustive, and constitutes only an indicative list of the most widespread hazards that are to be taken into account as a minimum in the climate risk and vulnerability assessment.
How to utilize the new report
The report provides building-scale solutions, technical assessment guidance and tools as well as case studies for various industry actors.
Building-scale solutions
For each of the priority climate hazards, the guidance presents comprehensive building-scale adaptation solutions targeting the following categories:
  • Building shape
  • Foundations
  • Walls & windows
  • Roof
  • Vegetation
  • Preferred materials
  • Space considerations
  • Primary structure
  • Services
  • Other
Technical assessment, guidance and tools
Useful resources including tools, standards, certifications and guides for building owners and users are also provided.
Case studies
Innovative applied examples of climate adaptation solutions are showcased as case studies.
Industry actors
It also important to address how different stakeholders can respond to climate adaptation and the guidance includes actions and considerations for:
  • Government, regulators & local authorities
  • Design teams
  • Building users, facility managers and owners
  • Investors, developers & insurance providers
So are you prepared?
As climate change continues to reshape the world, enhancing the resilience of Europe's buildings is of paramount importance – for society, people and financial sustainability.
Through concerted action from architects, engineers, policymakers, and the public, Europe can create a resilient built environment that thrives in a changing climate.

Want to know more?

  • Oliver Neve


    +44 7870 808407