Adaptation

Adaptation is adjusting to the physical impacts of climate change, by reducing vulnerability and finding opportunities offered by changing circumstances. Buildings that are adapted to the effects of climate change have reduced economic and legal risks and liabilities. Incorporating adaptation into design methods can improve property values and reduce insurance premiums as well designed, better performing buildings are more resilient to climate risks and attract clients. Investors, or building owners, with assets that are vulnerable to climate change are more likely to initiate improvement works or remove them from their portfolio, preferring more future proofed assets instead.

The urban heat island effect

Amid the commotion and chaos of the city lies a dense concentration of manmade heat sources. Buildings, vehicles and the infrastructure needed for transport, ICT (information and communications technology) and the supply of energy all make contributions to the heightened heat profiles within cities.

The process of urbanisation intrinsically alters the balance between the warming effect of insolation and the cooling effect of evaporation. This results in a distinctive biophysical profile for urban areas and they tend to have higher average temperatures when compared to the surrounding rural areas. This urban heat island (UHI) effect is a result of modified energy exchanges and the specific meteorological, geographic and urban characteristics of an area. For example, high density suburbs can be up to 6o°C warmer compared to low density suburbs and are characterised by higher night time temperatures and a restriction of the cooling effects of wind.

Strategies for tackling the root causes of the UHI effect centre on controlling the absorption and release of heat from the urban fabric and redressing the balance between the heating and cooling mechanisms in the urban atmosphere.

Materials commonly used in urban areas, such as asphalt and concrete, store much of the sun’s energy and can remain hot long after sunset, creating a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Increases in temperature in urban areas can cause heat wave periods leading to dehydration and respiratory problems amongst the elderly and increased energy usage for air conditioning and refrigeration in work places and homes.

Trees and open spaces in urban areas can be successfully used to manage urban temperatures by providing shading and helping to dissipate heat through evaporation, and controlling air movement.

Fact File – Urban heat island

  • 0.4 hectares of vegetation transpires as much as 6050L of water on sunny summer days. A mature solitaire deciduous tree could evaporate 500L of water on a sunny day
  • 65% of heat generated in full sunlight on a tree is dissipated by active evaporation from leaf surfaces.
  • The temperature can be up to 7°C lower on a site covered by trees;
  • A typical house with garden site with 30% vegetation cover dissipates as much heat as running two central air conditioners.

(Coder, 1996).

A significant role of urban green spaces in mitigation of climate change is likely to be influencing people’s behaviour so that they reduce their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Well planned green spaces can make cities more beautiful encouraging exercise and improving public health. As the effects of climate change become more prominent, green spaces are likely to be refuges of shade and there will be an unprecedented demand for recreational green spaces.

In the future, Britain’s climate is likely to resemble that of a Mediterranean country, yet its buildings are not geared towards the warmer climates found in these regions. Early adoption of adaptation and resilience measures in urban centres can lead to numerous beneficial scenarios. For instance, the installation of temperature moderation techniques reduces the need for mechanical cooling of buildings and minimises energy costs and carbon emissions.

Embedding resilience to high temperatures into the building continuity plan helps to ensure that a building will continue to operate during heat waves. More comfortable conditions inside buildings result in better staff retention and greater productivity for businesses.

Buildings that are adapted to the effects of climate change have reduced economic and legal risks and liabilities. Incorporating climate change adaptation into design methods can improve property values and reduce insurance premiums as well designed, better performing buildings are more resilient to climate risks and attract clients. Investors, or building owners, with assets that are vulnerable to climate change are more likely to initiate improvement works or remove them from their portfolio, preferring more future proofed assets instead.