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24 September 2014
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Buildings and Climate Change

The buildings we live and work in could be very different in the future if our climate does change as predicted. Changes in the weather, such as with rainfall, wind and the frequency of storms will affect the way our homes and offices are designed and constructed.

The kind of differences we are likely to need can be seen by comparing homes in southern England with those in northern Scotland. The weather experienced in the north of the UK includes more precipitation and stronger and more frequent winds - the buildings in Scotland are built with this in mind and are able to stand up to more severe weather.

A lot of research goes into building materials before they are used in the construction process, to see whether they will stand up to the job in hand.

Roof tiles are one of the products tested and they are put through tests involving different weather conditions. The tiles are subjected to different amounts of rain and varying strengths of wind. The aim is to calculate how much rain leaks through the tiles and the strength of the wind it takes to blow the tiles off a roof.

It isn't just tiled roofs which are affected by the weather. Some buildings are designed with flat roofs instead, which have their own problems. British standards state the upstand (which is on the edge of the roof) on a flat roof is 150 mm. However with climate change this may have to rise due to an increase in rain. The drainage of roofs may also need looking at.

Gerry Saunders of the Building Research Establishment says that, 'At the moment buildings and roofs are designed to shed water as quickly as possible. Maybe to avoid more flooding, it would be best if buildings retain water, perhaps by an increase in roof gardens which would absorb some of the precipitation.'

Manufacturers and builders in Scotland are already prepared for more severe wind and rain, similar to the conditions forecast for other areas in the UK, so it may be simple to use their best practice experience. There are already different regulations in Scotland, which could be implemented in the rest of the country.

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