The national building code may soon be altered to reflect the risk climate change poses to buildings.
Buildings are meant to last 50 years or more so it’s important that the structures built today can withstand the onslaught of extreme weather events triggered by climate change.
That’s why the Australian Building Codes Board has teamed up with its United States, Canada and New Zealand counterparts to consider building code tweaks that support adaptation to the risk of increasing intensity, duration, frequency and location of extreme weather events.
“Building codes have made significant contributions to protecting society from both natural and manmade hazards,” according to a statement issued by the US-based International Code Council, which is running the climate risk program.
“However, as societal expectations change, scientific knowledge grows and risks intensify, building codes must continue to evolve to address these needs.”
The ABCB recently asked the industry for feedback on its initial ideas.
Team Catalyst director PC Thomas, who has been actively involved in the development of the National Building Code and other sustainability standards over the years, says that the industry has become increasingly cognisant of how extreme weather effects will impact their buildings.
Three very hot nights in a row, for instance, can put extreme pressure on cooling systems to keep occupants comfortable, and vice versa for three consecutive cold nights.
At the moment, the building code doesn’t properly recognise these extreme events and define minimum standards that will allow buildings to adapt to these events.
Thomas says the first step will likely be ensuring there’s consistent definitions for these extreme weather events, which will also need to be climate specific.
WT Consultancy’s Steve Hennessy says that climate resilience has become a mainstream concept for property owners.
Since 2018, there’s been a resilience module added to GRESB to provides investors and participating companies and funds with information about climate risk and resilience. Green Star has also added a resilience category and credits.
Hennessey says climate resilience is “something people are thinking a lot about”, but that more information is needed to better understand the implications of these events so that the industry can respond appropriately.