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How can tomorrow's challenges be met by today's buildings?
The problem of building houses in the UK is that they have remained relatively static since “modern” house building started to take place. Whilst the rest of Europe has gone with relatively cheap pre-fabricates we have remained with our bricks. Also, we remain static in the fact we are always looking at ways of improving energy efficiency to keep heat in and there are many government grants to help with this. But is this best use of money long-term when the average global temperatures are likely to rise conservatively globally by 1oC by 2100. Should we be planning longer term when we build new communities? Or should we remain with the “throw-away” society.
So how can we make houses adaptable to climate change. This is a hard and demanding task but to be truly sustainable we will need to look at all the possible effects that climate change could hold and be demanding on both the current and future housing stock.
First, I will look at potential solutions to flood management, this is because as an island nation with over half the population living close to the sea and/or rivers this is perhaps one of the most devastating of the effects climate change will have on Britain. So how can we combat this by developing new houses. The old houses already on floodplains are likely to be continuously flooded by the historic failings of building on flood plains and this will have significant consequences on the economics of future flood management to protect these homes. However, we can build new homes to be truly sustainable in terms of flood management. Recent houses built in the Netherlands and one currently in the UK are being built to float on pontoon style fixings. This will prevent flood damage to homes and we already know of buoyancy forces when dealing with water so this will be of the easiest ways of developing new houses. The cost-effectiveness of these will need to be further discussed in regards to material costs. However, when flooded they could potentially create their own energy due to the movement with the currents of the flooding similar to tidal or wave power.
With temperatures rising there is the potential for hurricanes to form further north this will have detrimental effects on housing as seen with Storm Orphelia in Ireland. This could be prevented by having houses that sway in the wind similar to earthquake proof buildings this will stop the internal forcing in a building a potentially stop any cracks forming. Also removing slate from roof tops could be important as this is not sustainable and potentially deadly when they are ripped from buildings. A new way to approach this could be the grass covered roof tops of “sustainable” housing.
We currently build homes in this country to maximise any potential in heat loss reduction, this keeps our homes cheaper and more energy efficient. However, as temperatures rise the real need is to cool homes, In certain countries for example they have large thick walls which keep the heat in, in the winter but the heat out in the summer. Another approach to this could be using our knowledge of heat loss and reflection in summer the building could be covered to reflect heat and our extensive knowledge of keeping heat in, in the winter could be utilised. This will however be costly. Another way is the increase in solar panels on buildings and larger batteries to store more heat for winter. Similar to the way animals store food for winter hibernation.
Many solutions for “sustainable” housing exist but the economics of housing and the demands and roles markets play in the world alter what we can do, when in reality we already can solve the problems we face. By looking to nature in the past we have overcome all manner of obstacles for example space exploration. However, the need to look to Earth and solve its problems are the key for human survival. When we learn to speak and never forget, when we learn to listen and not fight, when we decide to act and not complain, is when humans will finally solve all their problems.
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