Context & Priority Areas

GLOBAL & UK AGENDA

Our climate is changing; we are experiencing warmer, wetter weather. This is placing new strains on our ageing infrastructure and buildings in terms of increased risk of flooding due to higher frequency of extreme events and potential overheating, particularly in urban areas. Innovative solutions are required to ensure that the built environment responds to these challenges. Under the Climate Change UK Programme, the UK (www.ukcip.org.uk) plans to deliver the Kyoto Protocol targets in reducing CO2 emissions by 60% of 1990 level by 2050.

Society's awareness of the climatic impact on buildings and infrastructure is now greater than ever. Adaptation to and mitigation of climate change impacts are now at the heart of many policy, investment and design decisions, making them a fundamental part of asset management. With this shift in perspective, there is a need for new, innovative approaches to tackling challenges presented by climate change, creating significant opportunities for new technologies and environmental management solutions.

The MBE KTN is working with its members to identify key innovations and facilitate their effective implementation in the area of climate change adaptation.


POLITICAL DRIVERS

Flood and Water Management Bill
The draft Flood and Water Management Bill was published for consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny on 21 April 2009. The draft Bill and the consultation paper set out the Government's proposals to improve flood risk management and ensure water supplies are more secure. In February 2010 both the Report and Third Reading sessions were completed; the Bill was introduced into the House of Lords and the Reading debate will be on the 24 February 2010.

The Flood and Water Management Bill wil deliver improved security, service and sustainability for people and their communities; make clear who is responsible for managing all sources of flood risk; protect essential water supplies by enabling water companies to control more non-essential uses of water during droughts; modernise the law for managing the safety of reservoirs; encourage more sustainable forms of drainage in new developments; and make it easier to resolve misconnections to sewers. The overall effect will be a healthier environment, better service and greater protection for people, their communities and businesses.

Climate Change Act 2008
The UK has passed legislation which introduces the world's first long-term legally binding framework to tackle the dangers of climate change. The Climate Change Bill was introduced into Parliament on 14 November 2007 and became law on 26 November 2008. The Climate Change Act creates a new approach to managing and responding to climate change in the UK, by:

  • setting ambitious, legally binding targets;
  • taking powers to help meet those targets;
  • strengthening the institutional framework; 
  • enhancing the UK's ability to adapt to the impact of climate change; and
  • establishing clear and regular accountability to the UK Parliament and to the devolved legislatures.

Strategy for Sustainable Construction
The Strategy for Sustainable Construction is a joint industry and Government initiative intended to promote leadership and behavioural change, as well as delivering benefits to both the construction industry and the wider economy.
It aims to realise the shared vision of sustainable construction by:

  • Providing clarity to business on the Government's position by bringing together diverse regulations and initiatives relating to sustainability;
  • Setting and committing to higher standards to help achieve sustainability in specific areas; and
  • Making specific commitments by industry and Government to take the sustainable construction agenda forward.

The strategy was launched in June 2008 with a progress report published in September 2009.

Priority Areas

Improvements in flood resilience of structures and products
The management of infrastructure assets, flood risk, and flood incidents are high on the collective agenda in the UK following the loss of essential services, such as electricity, water, and communications during recent flooding incidents, particularly in the summer of 2007. Subsequent socio-economic disruption showed that in major emergencies the direct effects of critical infrastructure failure can be severe, having a direct impact on incident management and recovery. There is a need to identify technologies that currently exist, which could be utilised to improve flood resilience of buildings and civil infrastructure. 


Water management
With the onset of warmer and wetter weather, different areas of the UK will experience one or both of two extremes: drought and flooding, as a result of the impact of climate change. In terms of drought situations greater abstraction from potable aquifers will occur putting a strain on water supplies and therefore increasing the likelihood for loss of supply, particularly during the summer months. There is a need to identify technologies that currently exist, which could be utilised to improve water management at both the macro (river catchment scale) and micro (individual home) level. 


Improved temperature control in buildings
Managing solar gain
The challenge for building designers is to maximise solar gain in the winter to reduce heating energy demand, and to control it in the summer to minimise cooling requirements. This is a particular challenge for modern buildings constructed in urban areas where greater quantities of glass are used in the external façade, thereby increasing the potential surface area for solar gain. This is an issue that is accentuated by enhanced urban heat island effects as the result of climate change. The use of materials in buildings that are able to store heat (ie has thermal mass properties) may be used to even out the fluctuations during the day, and to some extent between days.

Fluctuations in external air temperature
Changes in temperature over an hourly or diurnal (daily) period will have far reaching impacts on the built environment and consequently society as a whole. Higher temperatures particularly in urban areas could lead to an increase in the urban heat island effect that could impact the local climate and lead to alterations in working and travel patterns, and in some cases increase the amount of traffic on a particular route (eg increased numbers on buses due to uncomfortable conditions of the underground).

Civil infrastructure effects
The effect of temperature rise on critical infrastructure could potentially be far reaching in terms of electricity power lines sagging, railway track buckling, loss of integrity in the wearing course of roads and increased degradation of materials within structures. These potential issues individually and collectively will have a major impact on society.