In 1896 Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, concluded industrial age coal burning would enhance the greenhouse effect. Scientific and global leaders then spent a century debating what could be responsible for the predicted 3-8oC increase in global temperature, the possible impacts and how to stop it. Meanwhile hazard events linked to extreme weather increased and, since the 1980’s, related insurance losses rose from US$10 billion to US$50 billion. In 2010 the rhetoric finally evolved from mitigation to resilience.
The BREEAM team were, fortunately, quick off the mark and a decade earlier, they set about understanding the ways the built environment could prepare itself to benefit from the opportunities and manage the risks of climate change. Today we see tailored BREEAM schemes, both international and UK based, that integrate resilience against the global effects of climate change in ways that are appropriate to differing local contexts.
For example, in the UK, the outlook for the next 50-80 years is milder, warmer temperatures and increased rainfall. The latter is expected to expose coastal areas to rising sea levels and exacerbate flood events (causing property damage in the regions of £6bn; 5x the amount it does now, jeopardising fresh water supplies and exposing the public to water borne pathogens). Whilst the former could intensify urban island effects (increasing levels of ground ozone, exposure to harmful UV and general damage to public health). Although, conversely, warmer temperatures could see opportunities for natural production increase as well as a reduction in cold related deaths and heating bills (and thus energy demand for space heating).
Through the consideration of issues such as GHG emission reduction, climatic modelling, flood risk management, air and water quality, and designing for resilience, BREEAM project teams are being challenged and upskilled to deliver and adapt a built environment fit for the climates of the future.
Consequently, developers, occupiers and owners of BREEAM certified communities and buildings are well positioned to withstand potential increases in staff absenteeism and insurance premiums whilst reducing their GHG emissions and energy use, and supporting the integration of green and blue infrastructure.
For more information on BREEAM and resilience, read our ‘Mitigation, adaption, resilience: managing climate change risk through BREEAM’ briefing paper here.