The 2014 flooding in Somerset has interested us for two reasons. The scale of the destruction and response from communities in adversity was fascinating and well documented. But reaction from colleagues and friends in the construction industry was also intriguing.
Blame often shifted between three main groups; the developers (‘you never see any churches or old cottages under water’), the authorities (‘why wasn’t there more dredging’) and even the homeowners (‘who would buy a house without looking at a flood map?’). There was consensus though on one point; that no one was prepared.
Perhaps this is because the construction industry is less involved with dealing with climate events and more focused on preventing climate change. For all the uncertainty over the Code for Sustainable homes and HQM, conservation of fuel and power through L1 & L2 building regs was tightened that year with Part L 2014, and shows no signs of being wound down. We can debate on whether enough is being done to meet our 2020 carbon reduction targets, but the fact remains that this is where the impetus of the regulation lies.
This poses the question of what happens if we do not do enough to meet our carbon reduction targets, or to prevent the scenes in Somerset or at Dawlish becoming more commonplace.
Stephen Garvin of BRE certainly seems keen to investigate. On Thursday he announced plans from his organisation to create a centre for resilience for the built environment to help the UK withstand the impacts of climate change. This is not about showing off cutting edge developments in renewable energy, but ‘conducting research into new mitigation and adaption methods’. BRE hopes that the centre will develop standards for ‘design, planning and products’ aimed at future proofing built assets. The BRE trust is also said to be looking at how the nation’s current infrastructure can be made more resilient, and at an online tool to grade this resilience. In Stephen’s words, “We need to start taking positive action now to protect people and property – a knowledge centre is needed to help us develop the right solutions.”
As much as we hope that the worst case effects of climate change will never be realised in the UK, a focus exclusively on prevention rather than cure might leave us unprepared. So we look forward to seeing what Stephen and his team come up with.