Adaptation: Field of Action Building Industry

Building crane in front of a blue skyClick to enlarge
In the course of climate change the construction sector has to adapt, too.
Source: 106313/

Measures to adapt to climate impacts in the building industry contribute to the maintenance of healthy living and working conditions. They also mitigate or prevent damage caused by weather extremes and thus preserve the value of buildings. Furthermore, also an adapted construction design that takes into account climate aspects can constitute an effective adaptation measure.

Technical measures

Technical measures for adapting buildings to climate change should focus on the building envelope, the design, the building’s location and its technical features. With the help of a customised architecture, building design, materials and technologies, buildings can be made more resistant to climatic conditions and weather phenomena. Adaptation measures in the building sector are becoming increasingly important especially for buildings on slopes, in areas with dilative soils or in flood-prone areas.

Construction measures can also address different impacts of climate change. In case of rising temperatures and heat waves in summer, a good heat protection can help to protect the occupants from heat stress. Examples are shading measures, insulation or a climate-friendly architecture. Such measures can prevent overheating of buildings without having to rely on technical building cooling as air conditioners, which increase the energy consumption considerably.

The following additional measures against heat can be adopted:

  • An automated solar shading ensures optimum shading and thus prevents the heating-up of buildings.
  • The use of natural heat sinks to cool the building, for example by using an automated night-time ventilation, reduces the need for technical cooling.
  • Furthermore, also an optimised building orientation can prevent the heating-up of buildings.
  • Controlled ventilation systems like those that are already being used in passive houses contribute to an energy-efficient and balanced ventilation of buildings.

Other structural adaptation measures can protect buildings from flooding. Exterior parts of the building can be secured with the help of barrier systems. As far as walls, ceilings and floors are concerned, it is advisable to construct layer sequences that are less susceptible to damage. When constructing new buildings in vulnerable areas it may be necessary to abstain from including basements in order to prevent them from flooding. Instead of establishing a general construction ban, buildings can be built on pillars.

Structural adaptation measures also prevent damage in case of other extreme weather events. Damage caused by heavy rain can be prevented, among other things, by reviewing the drainage plan, the sealing systems and exterior surfaces. In order to provide protection against hail damage, it is possible to use materials and designs with high resistance or apply suitable protective layers.

Legal, political and management measures

Legal, political and management measures have the purpose of establishing conditions that make it easier for the construction sector and building owners to implement the technical and structural adaptation measures described.

In that respect, a first step is to raise awareness and share knowledge on climate risks and existing adaptation requirements. For example, professional associations can organise trainings that can be included in the event programmes of chambers of engineers, handicrafts or architects. In addition, awareness should be raised among building owners, administrative authorities and tenants. This does not only increase the awareness of vulnerability in the building sector, but also increases the competence and acceptance for adaptation measures.

At the political level, adaptation needs should increasingly be addressed in construction directives and further developed on the basis of findings on climate change. Possible measures are minimum requirements for heat protection in kindergartens and schools or vulnerability assessments of building sites, which contribute to the adaptation of construction designs or restrict the development approval in particularly sensitive areas.

In addition, practical building and planning instruments should be further developed. Integrated urban development concepts can provide for climate adaptation measures for renovation, modernisation and new construction projects, for instance. At the same time, also strategies aimed primarily at improving the energy efficiency or at climate protection should be included. Against this background, it is important to promote research efforts in the areas of sustainability and energy efficiency of buildings as well as the transferability of the results into practice. Furthermore, available map material should be updated and the availability of information should be improved by monitoring climate influences, for example.

If you are interested in obtaining information about concrete impacts of climate change in the field of action building industry, please click here.