The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report AR5, an international report on climate change impacts, adaption and vulnerability assessment, has provided clear scientific knowledge relevant to climate change.
With statements like "extreme precipitation events over wet tropical regions very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of the century," it is easy to see why this report has once again provided much fuel to the discussion of building resilience and adaptive communities.
Whether you believe the reports claim that human activity has a direct correlation to climate change or not, the evidence that our climate has changed is undeniable.
The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Australia and New Zealand describes building resilience as "not just related to the ability to reduce the magnitude and duration of disruptive events, but the ability to maintain critical operations and functions in the face of crisis."
According to Deloitte, in 2012 the total economic cost of natural disasters in Australia is estimated to exceed $6 billion. How will Australia’s construction industry adapt to address issues of decreased air quality, warming oceans, shrinking arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, ocean acidification?
The Council of Australian Governments, National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, 2011 noted that "communities that develop a high level of resilience are better able to withstand a crisis event and have an enhanced ability to recover from residual impacts." A suggested strategy included "appropriate building controls, suitable to local hazards and risks."
According to the National Disaster Resilience Strategy, communities need to understand the hazards and risks of their specific location and need the tools, controls and mechanisms to deal with the known risks. These mechanisms include strategic planning systems, land use planning policies can expose and mitigate risk and building standards can limit damage to property and infrastructure.
After the 2011 Brisbane floods, Brisbane City Council responded by reviewing the current City Plan and released the Brisbane Draft New City Plan which included changes to planning approaches that anticipate flood risks to mitigate future impact of server flooding. Also included in the City Plan is the new Flood Awareness Map and FloodWise property Reporting tools.
Green Cross Australia developed the Harden Up – Protecting Queensland initiative, a website portal to encourage Queenslanders to assess their vulnerability to extreme weather hazards and take self-reliant action to be prepared for future hazards.
Recently, the Australian Building Codes Board has released a discussion paper, Resilience of Buildings to Extreme Weather Events, as a precursor to requesting comments from industry whether changes to the National Construction Code needs to consider building resilience in response to changes in natural disasters associated with extreme weather events.
Currently the National Construction Code’s primary focus is people should not be subjected to risk of injury or loss of amenity should any part of a building fail. In relation to weather conditions, the National Construction Code addresses issues such as cyclones, extreme winds, rainfall, bushfire, floods and snow. It does not, however, take into account extreme weather events such as rising sea levels, extreme heat or acidification.
Even rating tools are taking building resilience into consideration with the Green Building Council of Australia‘s new Green Star Communities tool containing an Adaption and resilience credit which encourages and rewards projects that are resilient to the impacts of climate change and that have effective plans in place to adapt and recover quickly in the face of natural disasters.
It seems the industry is taking building resilience and weather adaptability seriously. It is rising to the challenge and understands that resilience requires sustained behavioural changes across all aspects of building design, construction, operation and maintenance.
It’s a good start, but what comes next?