Adapting Buildings to Climate Change
With the recent heatwave in the UK making it abundantly clear that many of our buildings are not equipped to deal with the effects of climate change, what can we do to reduce the impact of climate change on our cities and infrastructure?
Flooding is becoming an increasing risk to coastal towns and cities as well as those dwelling near rivers. With rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather, communities at risk of floods have had to adapt their buildings accordingly. Adapting buildings by elevating them using pillars or columns allows for water to flow underneath, minimising damage to the buildings themselves. It also provides the opportunity for vegetation to grow underneath and an increase in biodiversity therefore having multiple benefits for communities who use this sort of building structure. However, it does rely on the accurate prediction of flood levels and can reduce accessibility to ground level which can cause difficulties, particularly for those with mobility issues.
The temperature of the planet is increasing and with it, the frequency of heatwaves. These are having a particularly strong impact on countries like the UK, which are not used to, or equipped to deal with, hotter temperatures. There are several ways to reduce the severity of heat when constructing a building. Insulation can help prevent solar gain in a building by slowing down heat transfer and thankfully due to regulations, most buildings today are well insulated.
Using external measures of prevention such as a brise soleil or trombe wall, are effective methods as sunlight in winter is able to pass through however, they provide shade from the intense summer sunlight. Ventilation provided by fans and air conditioning can be expensive therefore often not appropriate for year-round use or for low-income households. Opening windows is only a viable method of ventilation when the outside temperature is lower than indoors which it often is throughout the night, however during a heatwave that may not be the case. The use of green roofs and reflective surfaces may also contribute to keeping a building as cool as possible.
Storms & Strong Winds
Strong enough winds can cause damage to the structure and foundation of buildings, which in turn can cause harm to people. Constructing round shaped buildings can massively reduce the damage caused by wind. The aerodynamics will lessen the severity of the impact on the building, making it more likely to withstand strong winds.
The roof of a building is an important factor as well. Domed roofs, like round shaped buildings, lessen the severity of the impact of strong winds on a building and are used around the world to protect against storms, cyclones, and typhoons. Ensuring the roof and foundations of a building are well connected will also help prevent against damages from strong winds. Roofs with multiple slopes can stand well and installing central shafts in a building will reduce pressure to the roof and wind force.
Incorporating Nature In Cities
With more than half the world’s population residing in cities, using green spaces to help counter the climate and ecological damage being done to our planet has many benefits. As different cities face different risks and adaptation options, they should focus on what is specific to them and play to their strengths.
An example of this is in Hong Kong, where work has been carried out on the Lam Tsuen River, which is an important source of drinking water. The river has been widened, over 1000 new trees planted alongside, zigzag fish ladders installed, and the use of natural bedding materials has improved the quality of water and increased biodiversity and aquatic life in the river.
Creating new habitats can increase carbon uptake, helping to offset carbon emissions, whilst supporting biodiversity and providing benefits to the community. Green spaces in cities can improve the physical and mental wellbeing of those who reside there and offer a way to connect with nature in a place where nature is minimal. Spending time in natural green spaces can help boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and reduce muscle tension and pulse. It is also associated with many more diverse and significant health benefits, such as reduction in cortisol, your main stress hormone.
Having green spaces in cities can help mitigate the effects of pollution and help reduce heat build up in urban areas, as well as providing shade in hot weather. They also help keep the temperature of surrounding water at a safe level, ensuring no severe impact on aquatic life and ecosystems. Singapore is a great example of a city that has incorporated green spaces and biodiversity into its centre. With Gardens by the Bay being one of the world’s most impressive botanical gardens and their commitment to incorporating plant life in new developments, it’s no surprise that Singapore is known as the Garden City.
By prioritising and incorporating nature in urban developments, the liveability of cities can be improved and contribute to making swift progress towards a more sustainable future.