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The Role of Architecture in Developing Climate Resilience

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In recent years, the frequency and severity of weather-related disasters have increased dramatically. It has become increasingly clear that we are not prepared to deal with the challenges of climate change, and buildings play an important role in mitigating the effects of such challenges by creating communities that are better able to adapt to changing conditions. This article will discuss the role of architecture in developing climate resilience, as well as how architects can help meet the challenges of climate change head-on.

Structural Photography of Structure

In a World that is Rapidly Changing

Climate, social and technological, it is crucial to stay flexible. In any form or structure - whether a building or a business model - there are three elements to consider: a core asset; an external environment; and processes needed to keep it alive. In a climate context, coastal areas are highly exposed to changing weather patterns. This poses new challenges for architects whose goal is to create sustainable buildings that keep up with these changes as well as create built environments that can stand out from (and withstand) future events such as floods, tropical storms, and rising sea levels. Designers need adaptable tools and methods if they want their designs to be able to adapt quickly enough - while keeping all factors in mind - given what we now know about how our planet will change over time. As technologies advance at breakneck speed, even incremental gains made by entrepreneurs and innovators can translate into trans-formative advances for entire industries. Technology provides people with opportunities to reshape existing infrastructures—architectural or otherwise—that could help cities become more resistant to climate change effects, such as rising temperatures or extreme weather conditions like hurricanes, flooding, or extreme heatwaves. By taking advantage of increasing technological sophistication around data analysis and other systems-related trends—such as cloud computing technology—designers can push further toward creating resilient structures that better suit evolving human needs over time. The resilient design also requires community participation, especially where residents participate actively in urban planning efforts which includes protecting public spaces so they're available during emergencies.

Buildings are Responsible for Almost Half of All Human Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Buildings represent roughly 50 percent of human-made carbon dioxide emissions—more than any other sector, according to a 2013 report from The New York Academy of Sciences. However, these buildings are also significant opportunities for emission reductions: Buildings offer opportunities for emission reductions due to their longevity—most last more than 50 years—and their large footprints, which enable large-scale gains through relatively small interventions. Additionally, because they can be built almost anywhere and everywhere, they can serve as models for similar energy-efficient buildings that could be reproduced elsewhere. An analysis by Deutsche Bank found that adopting green construction practices in developed countries could reduce global energy consumption by 11 percent and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent. This is a comparatively huge impact since it represents 17 percent of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. These findings inspired Norway’s $27 billion sovereign wealth fund to divest from fossil fuels in June 2015. It was then followed by Ireland’s divestment six months later. Green building design techniques that have been widely applied include passive solar architecture and effective insulation that allows a building to better retain heat during wintertime and prevents it from overheating during summer; both of these initiatives lower energy use tremendously. In cold climates like Canada’s or Norway’s, where insulation standards were low before rigorous standards were put into place, insulating walls with polyurethane foam or installing heat recovery ventilators can increase efficiency significantly.

White Dome Building Interior

We can Slow Down Climate Change by Building Better Buildings

Buildings account for 40% of global energy consumption and 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By building to higher standards of efficiency, resilience, and sustainability, we can reduce our dependency on energy-intensive technologies like air conditioning. With better building practices comes a lower carbon footprint, healthier indoor environments (improved air quality!), and safer communities that are more easily adapted to an ever-changing climate. No single action alone will indeed be enough to stem climate change—but every step helps! Luckily for us, there’s no time like today for being proactive about climate change. Best place to start? How about with your own home or business? • Redesign your current spaces for optimum efficiency by creating living spaces that make sense for your climate and lifestyle – especially with power sources located as close as possible to where they're used. This is what architects call decoupling. While not all homes require such dramatic changes, even small improvements can have large impacts – so long as you replace old habits with newer, smarter ones (see: plugging electronics into power strips instead of outlets). Overall, you should aim to cut down on wasted energy wherever possible by designing a tighter envelope around each room – think insulation levels capable of trapping drafts.

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Architects Already Build Buildings that Reduce Energy Consumption

Let’s build buildings that prevent climate change from happening. The time has come for architects to accept a new responsibility: to stop designing architecture that contributes to climate change, and instead to build buildings that actively contribute to a reduction in its effects. This could be as simple as increasing our use of natural ventilation systems, or it could mean taking advantage of super-insulation technologies such as vacuum insulation panels (which will soon be mandatory on all new residential construction). There are also plenty of other innovative ideas currently on the drawing board, from green roofs and living walls to 3D-printed houses. While some may seem far fetched today, we have no way of knowing what technological advancements lie ahead.

How New Technologies Could Help us Build Cooler Buildings

It’s becoming increasingly clear that buildings are responsible for a large number of global emissions, and it’s also becoming more clear that technology is going to be essential if we’re going to create buildings that operate on net-zero carbon. This year alone we’ve seen advances in passive house building techniques, solar panel building facades, new super-insulated techniques, and other innovations. All these new technologies come at a cost though. Whether it's upfront costs or long-term energy bills, not all buildings can afford such fancy additions. On top of that, retrofitting existing buildings may not always be an option for architects and developers trying to stick within budget.

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Indoor Air Quality is Another Big Issue We Can Tackle

Many buildings and spaces around us—including our homes—are full of pollutants like VOCs and particulate matter that can hurt our health. The design, building materials, furnishing choices, and location are all things we can easily alter to improve our indoor air quality. You don’t need a PhD. or even expertise in architecture; you just need to consider some important issues while planning your next home, school, or workspace. Some questions you might ask: Where will I be spending most of my time? Is there natural light? What kind of furnishings will I use? Should I paint the walls white? This is part one of a series; look for more on creating a healthy work environment (Part II) and bringing fresh air into our lives (Part III).

12-Inch Architectural and Engineering Scale Ruler

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ghulam Nabi Memon

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