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Resilient buildings stand best chance against climate change: IPCC


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May 12, 2014 by STAFF REPORT

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is warning that the extreme weather conditions climatologists are predicting due to global warming could spell dire consequences for people’s well-being and safety if developers continue to build to minimum standards, rather than adapting to resiliency-based standards.

The report shows the housing and construction industries have made strides toward mitigating climate change by incorporating energy efficiency in building design, however, the cost of adaptation measures and limited long-term liability for future buildings has influenced some builders to take a wait-and-see approach.

“The decisions we make today will have a dramatic impact on our housing stock for generations to come,” said Marcus Poirier, president of MasonryWorx. “Adapting to climate change in our building practices now must be done with a view to buildings lasting for the next 100 years.”

Canadians and businesses are feeling the cost of extreme weather. Numbers from Insurance Bureau of Canada show that yearly payouts due to floods, fire, hail and windstorms has increased from $100 million a decade ago to $1 billion between 2009 and 2012.

“There is no question that the incidents of severe weather are increasing in Canada, so are their frequency and severity,” says Glenn McGillivray, managing director of Institute for Catastrophic Loss Prevention. “The number of events is increasing and the impact of the events is increasing.” While Canada’s building code is generally strong, it’s not perfect, he added. “There are gaps. As we move into a future of more uncertain weather some gaps have to be filled.”

Some designers and architects worry that modern communities aren’t being built with the principles of resilience, which allows homes, buildings and the people living in them to cope better during extreme weather conditions.

“A masonry building is going to be far better when the power goes out, which is going to be happening possibly more often with extreme weather and the grid breaking down,” said Lloyd Alter, an architect and sustainable design professor at Ryerson University. “A masonry building that is insulated is going to keep people far more comfortable inside than an all glass condo like the kind they’re building now.”
 
Green design and construction expert Alex Wilson argues the issue could come down to a matter of life and death. Adopting resilience stems from the motivation of life-safety rather than simply doing the right thing. “We need to practice green building because it will keep us safe – a powerful motivation – and this may be the way to finally achieve widespread adoption of such measures.”


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