AMID THE HEATWAVES SHOULD COME GREATER THINKING ABOUT THE FABRIC AND MATERIALS OF PROPERTY
As people all over the UK basked in the glory of the June heatwave, few would have been thinking about the impact on buildings – both new and heritage alike.
Then came more serious incidences across Europe, where focus understandably turned to the wildfires and health concerns associated with the soaring temperatures.
As Project Managers striving to build, future proof and retrofit sustainable buildings, ‘heat’ is a topic that occupies our thought processes rather disproportionately.
Today, there’s just no reason for not considering climate change – not just in terms of the impact of construction and operation of a building on the environment – but the impact of climate change on the building.
The recent high temperatures (whilst positive for those on the beach) are just a reality of our collective future. We have already exceeded the 1.5deg rise and global warming is only increasing, yet capital projects are still being developed without this fact being recognised.
Inadequate benchmarks and limited exposure to progressive fabric first, low carbon, practical strategies within the design world are holding us back. As project managers with significant expertise and experience in sustainability, we know that energy savings of up to 90% are perfectly achievable. We have also proven e/o costs can be delivered well within a normal design development allowance. While air conditioning may give an immediate respite (for buildings and people), burning coal to provide the power required is just illogical.
So why hasn’t this knowledge reached the design or strategy phase of a building project yet?
Why do commercial developers, Higher Education institutions and other stakeholders in the build environment – AND their project teams – still appear so reluctant to change and develop facilities that will actually be fit for the next decade, to weather the weather and deliver a more sustainable option for those interacting with their buildings?
There are any number of reasons that we could point to but in 2023, these don’t carry much weight. A simple solution for all of this is to bring in the sustainability experts from stage one – vision. This will enable knowledge sharing for designers, planners and all other partners in the extended team. It also builds in ‘live data’ from the start of the process, making it ultimately easier to measure, benchmark, report and share best practice. This would be a real step change for all rather than bemoaning data that is readily accessible for designers but decreases in relevance day by day.
The earlier the better. The later the more expensive, complex and risk prone the project will be.
So next time the barometer hits the late 20s – and apparently that will be soon – remember that the increase in severity and frequency of our ‘heatwaves’ is a visible reminder of climate change. And, it should also be a reminder that we should be acting now, bringing in the experts in sustainability from day one to lead the brief, support the design and drag the naysayers into the 21st century.