Climate Change

Wales is classified as having a temperate maritime climate. This means that, thanks to the influence of the Atlantic we have mild, wet winters and cool summers in relation to our latitude. Climate, though is always changing.

The Earth has been very gradually warming since the last ice-age, this is due to a range of natural effects including the greenhouse effect, interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, changes in the Earth's orbit, fluctuations in energy received from the sun and volcanic eruptions. Recently climate has started to change faster and more unpredictably. This is due to the massive rise in emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) combined with the substantial loss of forests which convert CO2 back in oxygen (called sinks).

The source of this additional CO2 is the combustion of fossil fuels by man for energy. The effects on climate will vary across the world. In it is predicted by the Climate Impacts Programme that, over the next 40 years:

  • The climate will become warmer
  • The temperature of coastal waters will also increase, although not as rapidly as over land
  • High summer temperatures will become more frequent, whilst very cold winters will become increasingly rare
  • Winters will become wetter and summers may become drier throughout the UK
  • Snowfall amounts will decrease throughout the UK
  • Heavy winter precipitation will become more frequent
  • Relative sea level will continue to rise around most of the UK's shoreline
  • Extreme sea levels will be experienced more frequently

(see www.ukcip.org.uk )

These changes will be difficult to cope with especially since we are now constructing buildings designed to last 50-100 years. All new buildings should therefore be 'climate-proofed' or we are storing up issues that we, or our children, will have to face in the future.

Building in Wales faces two main issues with regard to climate change. Firstly; how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; and secondly, how to build in a way that can cope with the projected effects of climate change.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions

  • Choose durable materials
  • Choose low maintenance materials
  • Use materials from renewable sources
  • Choose recycled materials
  • Use materials close to their natural state
  • Use local materials
  • Use materials from companies with good environmental practices
  • Use low embodied energy materials (materials that take less energy to produce)
  • Use materials that are not fossil fuel based
  • Minimise waste
  • Use renewable energy sources
  • Minimise energy use

Buildings that are climate and future proofed

  • Not built on flood plains (or projected flood risk areas)
  • Sited appropriately for use
  • Well insulated
  • Use passive ventilation systems
  • Designed to be adaptable
  • Use Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems
  • Recycle water
  • Use materials that are recyclable

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