Climate Change Global Digest Spring 2022
This edition puts a spotlight on the UK’s third Climate Change Risk Assessment published at the end of 2021. In addition, we include the recently adopted Building Regulations and other relevant research and guidance.
THIRD CLIMATE CHANGE RISK ASSESSMENT
The UK Government has published the third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA). CCRA 3 sets out the risks and opportunities facing the UK. It is informed by the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) independent report of June 2021 and endorses its findings. It emphasises that ‘we must do more to build climate change into any decisions that have long-term effects, such as in new housing or infrastructure, to avoid often costly remedial actions in the future.’
The CCC has brought together all of the risk assessment outputs and briefings on a dedicated website, including sectoral briefings as well as key research.
In the sectoral briefings, the summary of impacts on housing is the most relevant to urban designers (there are also briefings on transport, IT, land use change and biodiversity). The housing paper clearly sets out the actions needed and the areas where greatest effort is required. One of the loudest messages is the need to combine decarbonisation strategies with adaptation measures to ensure greatest benefit in the built environment.
NEW BUILDING REGULATIONS
In December 2021 new approved documents were added to Building Regulations, including the Approved Document O relating to overheating. This requires all new buildings to limit unwanted solar gains in summer and to provide a means to remove heat that avoids the use of mechanical cooling wherever possible. Urban designers will need to advocate responsive design strategies at the neighbourhood scale in advance of building design, in order to minimise the risk of overheating, and the need for technical fixes at the building or unit scale.
The documents also include Approved Document F on Ventilation, L on Conservation of Heat and Power, and S on Infrastructure for Charging Electric Vehicles.
It is worth noting the proposed Part Z which many in the industry have promoted. This campaign emphasises the importance of requiring the assessment of whole life carbon emissions, and limiting embodied carbon emissions for all major building projects. The current draft includes embodied carbon limits for different typologies.
On the subject of embodied carbon, a report commissioned by SAVE Britain’s Heritage provides a very useful breakdown of why comprehensive retrofit is more carbonefficient than new build, focusing on the controversial proposal to demolish the Marks and Spencer’s building on London’s Oxford Street. A key argument is that any proposal must compare demolition and new build against a more comprehensive retrofit option, rather than a light touch one, in order to make it a fair assessment and to properly inform these types of decisions.
Natural England has launched its Green Infrastructure Framework. The Framework outlines standards and principles for green infrastructure across England.
To support the framework, Natural England has also launched an interactive green infrastructure map which allows users to look at all assets in an area – from parks to back gardens – and to see how areas perform against the standards. This tool will be particularly valuable to urban designers wanting to understand the baseline performance of study areas.
The Environment Bill has gained royal ascent and now sets mandatory targets for nature recovery through the planning system. This will drive green infrastructure and climateresilient measures in urban areas to deliver against these targets.
The Government has launched a new set of re-wilding funds. The Landscape Recovery Fund is for landowners who want to take a ‘more radical and large-scale approach to producing environmental and climate goods on their land’. The first round will focus on habitat for threatened native species and on restoring streams and rivers. The aim is to create at least 10,000 hectares of restored habitat, equating to 25-50 kilotonnes carbon savings per year.
A research study has highlighted the benefits of greening communal courtyards. The research by Katja Schmidt and Ariane Walz has shown that, ‘despite relatively small differences in green structures, the residential courtyards with a higher green volume clearly generate more co-benefits than the residential yards with less green, particularly for thermal comfort’. The courtyard studies showed that adding one tree to a courtyard had a sizeable impact on cooling. The research suggests that neighbourhoodwide strategies to green courtyards could be powerful in supporting comfortable environments in the face of climate change.
Key sources of information and further reading