The key actions for the construction sector to anticipate, prepare for, re-organise and respond to hazardous events, trends and disturbances related to climate. A guest article from Timo Marquez, Sustainability Marketing Manager, Saint-Gobain.
The built environment plays a vital role in shaping our world, but it also faces an unprecedented challenge: climate change. As extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, buildings must adapt to protect lives, investments, and ecosystems. Resilience in the built environment is no longer an option; it is a necessity that demands action from finance and investors, as well as architects and engineers.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), extreme weather events have increased globally, leading to unprecedented damages and disruptions. Between 2000 and 2019, economic losses attributed to weather and climate-related disasters reached an alarming $2.98 trillion. (1)
Saint-Gobain, as a key player in the construction sector, explores the relevance of climate resilience in the built environment for these stakeholders and searches for key actions to create a sustainable and secure future.
Resilience for finance and investors
Climate resilience is increasingly becoming a critical factor in investment decisions. Rising incidents of climate-related disasters have underscored the financial risks associated with poorly designed, built and vulnerable buildings.
The Philippines, China, and the United States are among the countries most affected by natural disasters, resulting in significant economic losses. In 2020 alone, these three nations accounted for approximately 40% of global economic losses caused by natural disasters. (2)
Climate adaptation measures over the next decade could generate $7.1 trillion in net benefits by 2030, according to a 2019 report from the Global Commission on Adaptation. (3) Finance and investment firms must recognise that supporting climate-resilient buildings offers opportunities to mitigate risks, safeguard assets, and secure returns over the long term.
By incorporating resilience metrics into investment evaluations, such as risk assessment of location and adaptive design features, investors can align their portfolios with sustainability goals. Moreover, engaging in public-private partnerships can foster innovation and support the development of cutting-edge technologies for resilient building practices. By supporting climate resilient building projects, they can mitigate potential financial risks and safeguard their investments.
Resilience for architects and engineers
Architects and engineers are the frontline forces in creating climate-resilient buildings. Embracing this concept allows professionals to move beyond existing design principles and consider innovative solutions that promote sustainability and safeguard occupants.
Designing for resilience means accounting for both current and future climate conditions. This involves analysing extreme weather patterns, sea-level rise projections, and temperature fluctuations specific to the building’s location. Designing for climate resilience involves various strategies, such as utilising durable and low-carbon materials, incorporating passive cooling techniques, and integrating nature-based solutions like rainwater harvesting, which can significantly reduce a building’s energy consumption and carbon footprint. Embracing these practices will not only future-proof buildings but also improve occupants’ comfort and wellbeing while reducing operational costs over time.
Key actions to foster climate resilient buildings
- Collaboration and knowledge sharing: Encourage collaboration among stakeholders, including architects, engineers, investors, policymakers, and local communities. Sharing knowledge and best practices can foster collective innovation and accelerate the adoption of climate-resilient building strategies. Platforms like the World Green Building Council’s guide on Climate Change Resilience in the Built Environment provide a valuable resource for disseminating best practices and research-backed solutions.
- Incentivise resilience: Governments and municipalities can introduce financial incentives, tax breaks, or grants to promote climate-resilient building practices. These measures can drive investments in sustainable infrastructure and encourage developers to prioritise resilience.
- Mandatory resilience standards: Implementing stringent building codes that prioritise climate resilience can ensure that all new constructions meet minimum resilience standards. Retrofitting existing structures to enhance their resilience should also be encouraged.
- Long-term risk assessment: Conduct thorough risk assessments that consider climate change scenarios and potential hazards. Understanding future risks enables stakeholders to take proactive measures to protect their assets and investments.
- Resilient materials: Choosing materials and technologies is essential for constructing climate-resilient buildings. For example, hurricane-resistant windows and reinforced concrete structures can protect against extreme weather events, while energy-efficient technologies minimise resource consumption and lower a building’s environmental footprint.
The urgency of climate change necessitates immediate action from finance, investors, architects, engineers, and manufacturers in building a resilient future. By recognising the relevance of climate resilience in the built environment, stakeholders can mitigate financial risks, create sustainable assets, and foster innovative design solutions. Interesting case studies can be found at Climate-ADAPT Case study explorer tackling heat island effect, heat stress, and water management among other issues.
Through collaboration, adopting holistic approaches to design, construction, and operation, we can construct buildings that stand resilient against climate challenges and pave the way for a sustainable tomorrow. By taking proactive measures, embracing innovation, and fostering collaboration, we can rise to the challenge and build a future that is prepared to weather any storm.
For more information, please see WorldGBC’s Climate Change Resilience in the Built Environment guide.