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How Resilient is Your Building to Climate Change?

Improving the resiliency of your building

The recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C clearly spells out the dangers of not reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and creates a path forward.  Unfortunately, competing forces make meeting this target very difficult.

Multi Residential Building frozenAs a building owner, it is important to not only reduce GHG emissions (for financial and environmental reasons), but to prepare for potential climate change outcomes.  How will climate change affect your building?  In Southern Ontario, current models predict:

  • Increased freeze-thaw cycles that accelerate wear on building envelope.
  • Increased intensities of storms, leading to flooding, ice storms and power outages.
  • Increased heat waves, leading to brownouts and power outages.
  • Increased “Polar Vortex” deep freezes.

Flooded Multi Residential BuildingWe have already seen the beginning of these effects with recent flooding, cold snaps and ice storms.  As a building owner, it is important to understand how your building will react to these changes, and how you can best make your building more resilient.

There are four main components to the resiliency of your building:

  1. Robustness:  This is the ability to continue occupancy of your building by maintaining critical operations.  This not only includes the building and its critical systems, but heating, cooling, etc.
    As an example, a building where a natural gas fired emergency generator, sized and wired to allow tenants to stay in the building indefinitely would be more robust than an oil-fired generator with a limited supply of fuel and only supplying emergency lighting & life safety.
  2. Resourcefulness:  This is the ability of your organization to prepare for a crisis, and respond to and manage the crisis when it happens.
    Resourcefulness includes advanced planning, training, supply chain management, communication protocols and prioritizing actions to take for various crises.
  3. Rapid Recovery:  This is the ability to return to normal as quickly as possible after a crisis.
    Rapid Recovery includes contingency plans and the ability to get resources where needed.
  4. Redundancy:  This is the ability to maintain operation when there is a failure in a system.
    Redundancy involves finding the “weak link” in the operation of the building and planning for it to fail.  For example, having a spare pump available should the main heating pump fail during a crisis.

Analyzing these four main components are your first step in improving the resiliency of your building.