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Building resilience in the face of escalating climate challenges
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Building resilience in the face of escalating climate challenges

11 Mar 24

As we confront the alarming reality of February 2024 marking the world's warmest month in modern times according to BBC article ‘More climate records fall in world's warmest February’, the urgent need for proactive climate action becomes increasingly evident. Dr Anastasia Mylona, CIBSE's Technical Director, underscores the severity of the situation in response to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The report projects a more than 50% chance of global temperature rise exceeding 1.5°C between 2021 and 2040, urging immediate and comprehensive action. Even with a rapid reduction in global emissions, the world is set to hit this critical threshold sooner, as early as 2037 under current emission pathways.

Amid the current 1.1°C rise in global temperatures, changes in climate systems are unfolding worldwide, manifesting in rising sea levels, extreme weather events and the rapid disappearance of sea ice. Dr Mylona emphasises that even if global emissions were reduced to zero tomorrow, we are bound for a certain level of climate change by the mid-century due to past emissions.

The message is clear: while committed to carbon reduction for a net-zero future, climate resilience is imperative across all sectors, particularly the built environment where people spend most of their lives. Climate change will impact thermal comfort, energy use, structural integrity, and water management in the built environment. Challenges will range from keeping cool in warmer summers to addressing the impact of extreme storms and water-related challenges.

CIBSE, in response, provides tools and resources widely used by policy and industry to inform adaptation strategies. For instance, the TM59 Design methodology, introduced in 2022, assesses overheating risk in homes, ensuring compliance with Building Regulations on overheating in England.

While the challenges of adapting buildings to rising temperatures are significant, CIBSE stresses the importance of understanding the comfort and health thresholds of vulnerable populations. Moreover, promoting passive design first (e.g. natural ventilation, insulation, shading, etc) and, whenever necessary, sustainable cooling systems, such as reversible heat pumps, is crucial to avoiding the widespread adoption of energy-intensive air conditioning.

In conclusion, a pivotal focus on making our cities more sustainable is paramount. By addressing increasing temperatures and heatwaves at the city level, our homes and buildings can be rendered less vulnerable to the escalating impacts of climate change. The journey toward a sustainable, resilient, and low-carbon built environment requires collective and immediate action.

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