Insight 10 March 2021

How can we adapt the built environment to mitigate and even reduce the impact of climate change?

When you hear about climate change, it’s likely you think about heatwaves, rising sea levels, bush fires & floods. It is during these extreme events that our attention is once again brought back to climate change and how it effects our lives. Yet, if you take a look outside, whether you see sun, rain or snow the conditions will impact the built environments in your organisation and has the potential to result in shutdowns, safety issues and increasing cost. The opportunity to act to mitigate this risk to your organisation and reduce the impact of climate change is in your gift with some easy to deliver adaptations.

Too wet: The facts are startling. In the first 18 operational years of the Thames Barrier it needed to close 39 times, in the 18-year period of 2000-2018 it had to close 150 times. The impact of flooding will only increase, there is a 10% chance of a catastrophic flooding causing £10bn in damage in the next 20 years.1

Adaptation: Consider the location of plant, and critical infrastructure to ensure it is elevated from flood risks, ensure that sustainable drainage solutions are in place.

Too dry: Despite the annual average rainfall in the UK being 1,392 millimetres, there are areas of the country that are still susceptible to drought. Taking an area such as Tower Hamlets & Islington there is a population of 6,000 people per square mile, based on typical water consumption that means the area requires 8,176 million litres of water per year.

Adaptation: To conserve precious water supplies, install aerated showers and taps, use low volume flush and waterless systems. Harvesting rainwater and replacing cooling towers also offer solutions to reduce water consumption.

Too cold/Too hot: 2019 was one of the hottest years on record, yet it is likely to be the coldest in the next 100 years. In June 2020 the temperatures in the Artic Circle hit an all-time record of 38c.2 By 2035 the northern artic is forecasted to be completely free of sea ice. As a result, changes in the ocean currents are occurring, which causes increases winds and the potential to cause a sudden change in the northern hemisphere. Conversely increased heat is causing additional use of AC systems within buildings.

Adaptation: Ensure that your building has sufficient heating capacity and that your installed assets are operating efficiently. Replace aged fossil fuel systems with decarbonised renewable solutions such as ground and air source heating and cooling. Programme suitable time schedules and set points to ensure onsite cooling is not causing excessive energy consumption. Implement natural ventilation, night cooling and remote control of AC systems to manage consumption.

Too windy: Climate Change is affecting the jet stream changing the incidence of the wind direction and the natural wind resilience of the UK. Strong winds create large differential pressures on buildings (positive or negative) and these pressures have significant impact on safety.

Adaptation: Implement a whole building approach, checking roof and cladding systems and maintain trees to reduce damage risk.

Too calm: Even when we are not contending with extreme weather, climate change continues to pose a risk. Calm weather reduces the dispersion of air pollution. In 2012 3.7million premature deaths worldwide were attributed to exposure to poor air quality.3

Adaptation: Embrace biodiversity schemes, planting trees can help reduce local air pollution by up to 20%.

1 The Energy & Climate intelligence Unit

2 World Meteorological Organization


Plan Zero’s A to E methodology and full end-to-end carbon reduction capability ensures a holistic view to all these issues posed by climate change. Mitie’s Sustainability Consultants and carbon reduction specialists help our customers to prepare and adapt to the effects of climate change, creating resilient organisations that can maximise upon opportunities to reduce cost and carbon.

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