So it turns out it isn’t just the UK winter that fills me with dread (see my previous blog), so does catching a peak hour tube in London during a heat wave!

Buildings are overheating

Did you know that if we design our buildings for the climate of today or yesteryear that they may not perform very well in the climate of 2050? The UK has been having an unprecedentedly hot summer and as an Australian I’m constantly surprised by how it actually feels hotter in a London heatwave, which has relatively lower temperatures, than it does in an Australian summer.

Buildings in the UK are overheating, keeping in the heat overnight (which is great in winter) and if they have air-conditioning it can tend to be ineffective at cooling down the entire space. Unfortunately, it is not likely to get much better with climate change meaning hotter summers and more frequent heat waves in the future.

This is why we need to make our buildings more resilient to the future climate and extreme weather events. In the UK this means considering that summers are getting hotter and so buildings may need to incorporate new features such as eves, shading systems or natural ventilation.

It isn’t just hot weather and heat waves but also potentially higher rainfalls in different season, so local authorities may need to design wider gutters and drainage systems to avoid have to capacity of heavy rain events.

On the flip side, how can we mange too little water? Will construction materials behave as they were expected in extreme conditions? What happens to energy performance and thermal comfort? There are many considerations.

Design for Future Climate programme

Innovate UK funded the Design for Future Climate programme in 2010 in order to understand how we can design our buildings in order to safeguard peoples heath and productivity and cope more readily with extreme weather events.

Innovate UK’s £5 million Design for Future Climate competition was set up to encourage the incorporation of climate change adaptation in the design of real construction and refurbishment projects in the UK. The programme aimed to build climate adaptation expertise within the UK building profession, and to provide evidence of the commercial advantages of considering future climate adaptation in both new build and refurbishment projects.

The programme funded approximately 50 projects (including hospitals, offices, schools and housing) to incorporate this into their design and has produced evidence and analysis on the barriers to incorporating climate resilience into design of buildings.

Who might be interested in engaging in this work?

While the findings of this programme were published in 2014, the original learnings are still relevant and could be incorporated into thinking on climate change resilience work. The design market for adapting buildings, either in original design or incorporation into maintenance schedules, remains limited.

Construction clients risk procuring stranded assets if they do not ask for climate change risks to be considered when they procure infrastructure.

What’s next?

Innovate UK invested £17 million and £5 million respectively into the Retrofit for the Future and  Design for Future Climate programmes resulting in learnings designed to be support by industry to innovate in the retrofit and climate resilience space.

In order to ensure these stay relevant, Innovate UK has partnered with the UK Green Building Council because they share our aim to put this kind of information readily in the hands of industry.

The UK Green Building Council will be running a series of events and undertaking research in the Autumn of 2018 to explore what the risks are to the UK built environment from a changing climate and what can be done to make buildings and infrastructure more resilient.

If you are interested, take a look at the UK Green Building Council’s climate resilience project.


In case you missed it here are the Design for Future Climate reports.

This article was originally published on on August 9.

Make sure to follow the UK Green Building Council on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.