The earth is warming, and our climate is changing. There is little evidence that politicians and businesses will rise to the challenge to reduce emissions fast enough to mitigate significant climate change. As the climate warms, the climatologists believe that we will witness
- Increased temperatures
- Warmer, wetter winters
- Hotter, drier summers
- More heat waves and droughts
- Rising sea levels and
- More extreme weather events
Therefore, we must prepare for the worst and begin to build more robustly for the future climate and/or utilise adaptable construction approaches.
Two of the most serious effects of climate change are overheating and flooding. Stolon are changing to the way to design and construct buildings to make them more robust to these effects and more adaptable to future changes.
Overheating and flooding are two of the most visible and critical effects of climate change to tackle. As temperatures rise, rainstorms will become more frequent and heavier. Based on recent flash flooding events this appears to have started already, and yet it is no doubt likely to become far worse.
These changes will have a detrimental effect on our buildings and our communities. The Structure, Heating & cooling systems, and Weatherproofing & Drainage could all be affected as well as the rising risk from Flooding. The mental health and well-being of communities could be directly affected, as they struggle to cope with these more extreme weather events and live in the fear of them happening.
The UK will see increased temperatures throughout the year. Whilst this will reduce the need for heating in the winter-time it is likely to increase the demand for cooling in the summer. Buildings, both old and new, are already experiencing increased temperatures due to excessive solar gain and sustained night-time temperatures that prevent them from cooling down effectively. As temperatures continue to rise, so too will night-time temperatures which are the most dangerous to human health. The 2003 heat wave claimed the lives of almost 15,000 people in France, as temperatures remained exceptionally high throughout the days and nights (often well over 30ºC) for over a week.
Warmer weather holds more moisture in the atmosphere, which in turn leads to greater precipitation and more frequent flooding. The main cause of flash flooding has been the lack of capacity in the drains to cope with the rate of rainfall resulting in water running off roof and roads, or bursting out of the drains, to flow into property. Where sewers are combined to carry rainwater and raw sewage the resulting floodwater can be highly contaminated. Flash flooding can also be a result of rivers being overwhelmed by heavy downpours for the same reason.
Since 2007, Stolon Director, Robert Barker, has been involved in research into climate adaptive environments. As a result of this research, we have been implementing many measures to tackle overheating, flooding and better weatherproofing in projects.
In response to the risk of overheating we are integrating measures into the building fabric and building services, such as:
- Integrating passive solar shading over glazed areas, through balcony and overhangs in the built form,
- Where possible, incorporating pitched roofs, to allow heat to vent out of the apex of the building, often simply by locating openable rooflights at high level,
- Using external louvres, screens, or baffles to provide solar shading, often doubling as privacy screens. They can also provide the most beautiful shadow play where the sun filters through.
At Forest Mews, all but a few of the windows are covered with a mesh trellis that is covered with climbing plants. In the summer, the foliage provides shading and in the winter dies back to allow natural light in.
- Using water and vegetation to reduce the ambient temperature through evapotranspirative cooling, such as shallow reflecting pools, attenuation ponds and planting.
In response to rising flood-risk we have established several construction approaches, such that we have a range of approaches to cater for differing levels of risk. Each approach seeks to tackle the 5 core aspects of the building that are at susceptible to flooding: Sub-structure, Structure and envelope, Apertures, Services and infrastructure, Drainage.
- Avoidance / elevated construction - preventing flood damage by raising the floor levels above the flood levels. This approach was adopted for both the Garrison Gardens and Hampton Quay masterplans helping to hide the cars out of site, and provide more space for recreation.
- Flood Resistant construction is designed to resist flood water ingress at the point of entry into the building. Flood doors, barriers, raised air bricks, water resistant renders are all likely to be required to adapt buildings to rising flood risk.
- Where trying to resist flood water could cause structural damage to a building, Flood Resilient Construction can be used to withstand significant damage from flood water after it enters. Measures should enable it to be easily cleaned, dried out and safely reoccupied.
- Where flood depths could be significant but the predicted flood level uncertain Amphibious or Floating Construction can provide a flexible solution. Built on foundations that are designed to be able to float, the entire property can rise out of harm’s way as it buoyed by the flood water, no matter what the depth.
- Sustainable drainage is an essential component of all new buildings. In more urban areas we are using green roofs, rain gardens, rain planters and attenuation tanks.