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20 Jan 2022 < Back

Climate Change Risk Assessment - Does it change the way we think about Property?

We are all aware that “climate change is happening now”. This was the opening line from the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022 published earlier this week by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. This risk assessment is a requirement of the Climate Change Act 2008 and is the third incarnation of the document. One of the key statements (that I suspect many of you may have already heard) is that: “climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our generation and has already begun to cause irreversible damage to our planet and way of life”. The report covers a broad spectrum of climate change issues including the impact to our native wildlife and infrastructure, but even when you simply consider just some of the impacts it will have on both the sectors served by the PCA and the wider property/construction industry…the implications are massive!

The problems of overheating

The report then states that whilst we are aiming to limit climate warming to just 1.5 degrees, we must be prepared for warming up to 4 degrees. A clear indication that we must make ready for the worst case scenario. Obviously the implications of just a change to our native ecosystems is massive...but what about on our housing stock? We are increasingly making airtight homes and the issue of overheating in our properties is gradually becoming more of a concern. According to the report, overheating has both health and productivity impacts. Based on the current trajectory, it looks to become a more and more significant issue. This will place a greater need on the provision of better ventilation.  Unfortunately however, the issues with poor installations of ventilation systems are well documented.

Flooding frequency

The report warns of “what used to be a 1-in-100-year flood event becoming a 1-in-10-year event!”. Flooding ruins people's lives!! If large scale flooding events are set to become more commonplace, we need to adapt to reduce the impact it has. This is not an issue we should be dealing with reactively. We must learn to be more pro-reactive. Obviously, the long term goal should be to prevent climate change, but the report clearly indicates that we are missing that opportunity.

The impact of climate change on basements

It's pleasing to know that the PCA and its members have been on the front foot on this issue and last week a small group of members met to consider the impact of climate change and how this might affect basements. Whilst the group agreed that most good structural waterproofing practices would help to reduce the impact of climate change on underground structures, it was felt that we all need to be alert to the issue. All waterproofing designs should be carried out considering not just the condition at the time, but those that might be encountered further down the line. According to the report, surface water is now “the most widespread form of flooding in England”. It encourages better planning to help adapt to future flood risk and this mustn’t be an oversight in waterproofing design.

We must learn to adapt

The report admits that inadequate measures are currently being implemented and that there is a need for greater action, but concedes there is a bumpy road ahead with the UK already experiencing large economic costs from climate extremes, which are increasing. As the report states (which I highlighted at the start), “It is one of the biggest challenges of our generation and has already begun to cause irreversible damage to our planet and way of life.” Whilst it is clear that the Government needs to take urgent steps to achieve its goals, it also emphasises that this must be actioned at an individual level too and we must all learn to adapt. For PCA members (& the wider property/construction industry), it is vital that we take on board these considerations in our designs and specifications and, once again, prove that we lead the way in our represented sectors.

View the Report >>

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