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Using Design to Beat Climate Change

Architects design their buildings with a total awareness of the site and its surroundings. If serious reports about the inevitability of climate change are accurate, architects will need to use every drop of that adaptability to find solutions to new building challenges. Different locations will require alternate approaches, and some materials may become unsuitable or too expensive. So, how can design overcome the rigours of global climate change?

Cultural Shift

Writing for Architect Magazine, Ned Cramer talks about changes in demand:

β€œIt follows that architects must minimize the use of energy – and carbon-intensive technologies such as electric lighting and air-conditioning, and revive low-tech solutions such as passive ventilation. Yet the future won’t be a Luddite’s paradise. Technology’s role ought to grow in some areas, given recent advances in building design, analysis, materials, systems, construction, and operations that help mitigate climate change. In a carbon economy, design will obviously still matter, but numbers will matter more, as case studies, modeling, and performance data increasingly drive client decisions. As the world adapts to climate change, thrift will inevitably supplant consumption as a prevailing cultural value, and the architecture profession…will have to relearn the great joy of doing more with less.”

We have seen that renewable energy sources have dropped in price and become more economically viable. Both solar and wind power are more affordable, and it’s logical that these sources of energy will become a key part of any climate-change-busting build in the future. That is, so long as they’re cheaper than the alternative.

Built to change

Due to superior building techniques and design, modern buildings are likely to last for at least a century after construction. However, changing demands and circumstances may offer downsides to this longevity. As an example, London’s increased growth and taller buildings have led to increased temperatures in the city, meaning a stronger demand for air conditioning. Modern glass and steel skyscrapers could not exist without air conditioning, but in a straitened future where traditional energy prices rise, these buildings will become punishingly expensive to work in. Already there are changes being made through refurbishments.

Designers will need to consider future impacts of climate change as well as current issues when drawing up new buildings. The lower the energy requirements, the better, since it is outside factors like these that clients will not be able to control or anticipate going forward.

In coastal areas, future flooding will need to be a consideration during the construction of any building. Elements such as stilts or dykes will need to be included in planning, depending on the elevation and positioning of the site.

Changes to working lives

The way we work is changing: thanks to the internet, employees can work from home using technology like video calling and shared virtual drives. Yet there are hundreds of office buildings, constructed to meet a demand that may never arrive. They are ideally situated, often near public transport hubs, making them very important to the future of a city. Conversion may be the answer. By transforming single-use office blocks into mixed-use buildings, architects can fulfil the changing needs of a populace affected by climate change.

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T: 01638 662393
Using Design to Beat Climate Change
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