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Buildings and Climate Change Adaptation

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Given the long lifetime and high cost of buildings and the wider man-made surroundings of the built environment (e.g. roads, public spaces) it is critical that we plan for and create places that can stand up to the predicted impacts of climate change.

The main impacts of climate change on Islington are likely to include:

  • warmer, wetter winters
  • hotter, drier summers (which may be especially hot in dense urban areas)
  • more frequent extreme rainfall events, leading to greater risks of flooding
  • possible intensification of the urban heat island effect
  • possible higher wind speeds

In anticipation of these impacts getting worse over time, we need to plan now to ensure Islington is well adapted. For example, higher summer temperatures could have serious implications for human comfort, overheating and heat stress if we do not start to adapt our environment. Increasing the amount of green space and trees offers one approach to cope with hot weather (through shading and evaporative cooling), but these measures are themselves vulnerable to decreased water availability, rising temperatures, and changing patterns of disease and pests. Other options include positioning buildings or using solar shading devices to reduce heat gain from the summer sun, and/or increasing use of natural ventilation to remove heat using fresh air rather than energy-intensive, heat-producing air conditioning units.

Another key change in the climate is likely to be more frequent extreme rainfall events – these could increase the risk of flooding of buildings and open spaces with implications for human health as well as for the structural integrity of buildings and the ability to insure them. Sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) such as permeable pavements that allow the water to drain through the paving offer a key means to reduce rain water runoff. Some systems can also capture water for other uses (e.g. for irrigating vegetation) thereby making efficient use of water that would have otherwise drained away.

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