A new online climate adaptation and resilience tool launched this month by Wood & Grieve Engineers aims to assist developers, design teams and local councils to assess risks and outline mitigation pathways for building and infrastructure projects.
Philip Cook, WGE sustainability project engineer, said it has already been used by two projects to achieve the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Credit for Climate Change Adaptation.
CChangeAP combines a risk assessment framework for any specific site that uses the most recent CSIRO data on expected impacts to identify potential risks and then directs users towards resources and methodologies for developing project-specific adaptation plans.
“In order to achieve green, sustainable developments that will stand the test of time – we need to plan for how our climate will change in the future and ensure that our buildings can withstand those conditions,” WGE chief executive José Granado said.
Mr Cook said the tool was developed because the firm had identified just how complex undertaking these kinds of risk assessments was in terms of pulling together all the various elements and then translating that into project-specific initiatives.
It can be used by any designer, developer, planner or local council on a no-cost basis to provide a risk assessment and adaptation pathways, he said. Or, for a fee, a detailed, peer-reviewed and certified assessment and adaptation plans can be produced in conjunction with sustainability consultancy Adaptive Futures.
Mr Cook said the tool was attracting great interest from developers who want information on the risks attached to potential sites so they can future-proof projects.
In addition to site-wide threats, such as flooding risk, sea level rise risk and inundation risk, it can also identify specific elements in a design that may prove problematic, such as transformers or other electrical infrastructure being located in a basement or ground floor area that is at high likelihood of flooding.
“Some of these are things good designers will pick up anyway,” Mr Cook said. “The tool is a systematic way of making sure they haven’t missed any key threats.”
The assessment covers two timeframes – 2040 and 2060. By 2040, Mr Cook said, generally, major HVAC installed in the near future would be reaching the end of its economic life and would require replacement.
Given the CSIRO projections for temperature rise, ensuring a plant room is built with the capacity to host larger plant is important, he said.
The second timeframe, 2060, is likely to be the end of economic life for buildings constructed in the near future. Developers need to know they have managed any risks to it that may arise between now and then, he said.
Mr Cook said that regarding information available to developers and designers from planning authorities or other local agencies, not every local government had done the kind of assessments that would provide site-specific guidance as to future risks.
By using the tool, this information gap can be addressed to some extent, depending on what other resources WGE have been able to draw on from the planning, council and agency levels to incorporate.
At the very least, with the CSIRO data, it is likely to tell a developer if a site is simply too risky to develop at all, making it a valuable resource during the due diligence phase before site acquisition, Mr Cook said.
The firm is having ongoing conversations with local councils to obtain more information that can be incorporated. There is also value for councils in the tool, he said, as it can be used to assess if a development application has adequately addressed climate change risks.
This could assist councils by providing them with a data-based rationale for requesting amendments or even in some cases limiting development.
One thing that is a concern going forward is the sacking of the CSIRO scientists that had been developing the climate change impacts data.
“The CSIRO sackings are difficult for us,” Mr Cook said. “The tool is only as good as the information that gets puts into it.
“We would like to see that information kept up to date. If CSIRO don’t have the funds to keep it up to date, as time goes on [people] will struggle to make accurate assessments.”
Mr Cook said that while the rationale behind the sackings was that climate change is now established as scientific fact, the next step is how we are going to adapt and work out ways to mitigate and minimise its impacts. We still need the scientists for that, he said.