Last edited 13 Jul 2016

The business case for adapting buildings to climate change

On 2 June 2015, at the Vision Conference in London, Innovate UK (previously the Technology Strategy Board) launched the final report of the Design for Future Climate: Adapting Buildings (D4FC) programme, 'The business case for adapting buildings to climate change: Niche or mainstream?' by Matt Thompson, Ian Cooper and Bill Gething. The launch of the full report followed publication of an Executive Summary in November 2014.

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The report is the culmination the 4-year D4FC programme which included work by 240 companies and generated a body of evidence about how buildings exposed to climate risks can be adapted. It responds to the Government's National Adaptation programme and considers adaptation to climate change at the scale of individual buildings.

The report is based on the observations from a designers group and a client's group and assesses the key drivers affecting the market for design services to adapt buildings in preparation for a changing climate. In the foreword, Mark Wray, Lead Technologist in the Built Environment team at Innovate UK suggests that, “The subject is complex and full of uncertainties, but for firms who respond it seems likely that there will be early adopter commercial advantages as climate hazards become more prevalent and as pressure on clients to consider adaptation grows. Properly managed and exploited, the momentum gained should put the UK at the forefront of the dawning international market for adaptation services in the built environment, which grew by over 5% last year.”

The report proposes that the challenge is to optimise building design for a phased transition to anticipated future needs, making use of maintenance cycles for upgrades. It sets out seven key messages:

  • The market for design services to adapt buildings to future climate change remains very limited.
  • The limited market is not an excuse for building design professionals to do nothing.
  • Construction clients risk procuring stranded assets.
  • The government must signal that adaptation in the built environment is a critical issue.
  • At present, the construction and property industries have no adaptation plan to tackle climate change.
  • Clients and professionals urgently need educating in climate change adaptation for buildings.
  • There is a need for a programme of monitoring and evaluating the performance of climate adapted buildings.

It suggests that lack of willingness by clients to engage with the problem dampens designers motivation and reduces the scope for the market to develop, but the report identifies mounting pressure on clients from the insurance industry, investment institutions and financial stakeholders.

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