2Climate Change, Resilience and the Built Environment

Janet F. Barlow, Li Shao and Stefan Thor Smith

2.1 Introduction

In the fight against climate change it has been claimed that ‘the built environment is in the front line of the battle to cut carbon emissions as far as possible, and as fast as possible’ (UK‐GBC, 2008). The built environment and the professions that create and manage it face many challenges: growing and ageing populations, water and energy shortages, air quality, a globalised and increasingly competitive construction sector, changing governance and increasing reliance on ICT infrastructure. Adapting to or mitigating against climate change can be hard to define, let alone act on, and industry leaders have been sceptical about a ‘low‐carbon agenda’ (Chan and Cooper, 2010).

While future climate predictions will always be uncertain, present‐day weather extremes cause big problems requiring swift action and serious reflection on city system management processes. Cities regularly grind to a halt due to flooding, wind storms, heavy snowfall, etc. but it is high temperatures that particularly depend on building design. The widespread European heatwave of summer 2003 caused the deaths of at least 35,000 people, many of whom lived in large cities, 2000 being UK nationals. It was deemed to be the worst natural disaster for 50 years, but given the recognition that poor‐quality buildings in large urban areas played a significant role, it resulted from a combination of both ...

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