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Climate Change: Implications for Buildings – AR5 Summary

This author no longer works for DNV GL.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the most comprehensive and relevant analysis of our changing climate. It provides the scientific fact base that will be used around the world to formulate climate policies in the coming years.  The report concludes that climate change is unequivocal, and that human activities, particularly emissions of carbon dioxide, are very likely to be the dominant cause. Changes are observed in all geographical regions: the atmosphere and oceans are warming, the extent and volume of snow and ice are diminishing, sea levels are rising and weather patterns are changing.

The European Climate Foundation (ECF), the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School (CJBS) and Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) have produced a family of sector-specific briefings of the comprehensive AR5.  The recently released Climate Change: Implications for Buildings summarizes the key findings in AR5 as it relates to the buildings and structures we live and work in.

Because it is not too late to be beneficial, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change still addresses mitigation in the built environment.  However AR5 now provides focus on adaptation and resiliency in buildings. Here are my favorite restatements of the briefing…

“Buildings face major risks of damage from the projected impacts of climate change, having already experienced a big increase in extreme weather damage in recent decades. There is likely to be significant regional variation in the intensity and nature of such impacts.

Many buildings are vulnerable to impacts of climate change. These include increased precipitation, thawing permafrost, and extreme weather-related events such as wildfires, severe storms and floods. Without investment in improved resilience, this vulnerability is destined to increase.

Higher temperatures will drive changes in climate related energy demand. In low-income countries, rising wealth will be the main driver of increasing energy demand, principally for air conditioning and transport.

Protecting new buildings from the same climate change impacts would mean incorporating adaptation responses into their design and construction.

Governments are key to crafting and coordinating building sector responses and can identify and encourage synergies between adapting buildings to climate change and mitigating their GHG emissions, recognising potential for multiple benefits.

Insurance providers can encourage policy holders to cut risk exposure by giving resilience ratings to buildings, feeding into lower premiums. They can also support work to improve building codes and communicate best practices to property owners, governments and others. Yet insurers can also constrain actionfor instance when ‘like-for-like’ replacement clauses prevent improvements being made.

Radical change within the building sector requires aggressive and sustained policies and actions across the design, construction, and operation of buildings and their equipment, and will benefit from market and policy incentives. Advances in technologies, know-how and policy provide opportunities to stabilize or reduce energy use from buildings by mid-century. Recent large improvements in performance and costs make very low energy construction and retrofits economically attractive, sometimes even at net negative costs.

Building codes and appliance standards, if well designed and implemented, have been among the most environmentally and cost effective instruments for emission reductions. Substantially strengthening these codes, adopting them in further jurisdictions, and extending them to more building and appliance types will be key factors in reaching ambitious climate goals and in helping adapt to the changing climate.”

AR5 lays out the facts regarding climate change effects on the built environment. DNV GL’s Sustainable Buildings and Communities team is developing the next steps in Future Proofing Buildings.™

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