With round one of the Building Resilience to Climate Change program currently open in New South Wales, it is the perfect time for local government to prepare for future extreme heat wave scenarios by investigating possible upgrades for their facilities.

Research has shown that elderly members of the community are especially vulnerable to the effects of heat. During extreme heat events, our built environment is today reliant on mechanical cooling to maintain comfort. However, most facilities have no back-up supply and are therefore susceptible to blackouts, which are much more likely to occur during heatwaves due to the combination of peak load and decreased system capacity.

An adaptive response to future extreme heat wave scenarios by local government would be to develop heat stress management strategies that are independent of the mains energy supply. During extreme heat waves and in the event of energy infrastructure failure, public buildings and town centres may need to act as heat shelters where local residents can gather.

As a starting point, local government can undertake thermal modelling of their facilities, which will help answer a number of questions, such as:

  • Will the existing HVAC system cope under extreme heat wave scenarios?
  • What will the indoor environment be like if the HVAC system fails during an extreme heat wave?
  • What upgrades to building fabric and/or services can be made to better handle hotter hot days?

Round one of the Building Resilience to Climate Change invites projects that address extreme heat or adapt priority infrastructure. Grants of $15,000 to $80,000 per project are available to local government under this program, which would cover the cost of the thermal modelling and extreme heat wave assessment. Applications close Monday 29 September 2014.

The program is funded through the Office of Environment and Heritage and the NSW Environmental Trust, and is administered by Local Government NSW to address identified climate change risks and vulnerabilities facing NSW councils.

Lawrence Yu is a sustainability engineer with JHA Consulting Engineers, whose sustainability offerings include thermal modelling of buildings, climate change impact assessment and carbon footprint assessment.

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