Climate Change: Implications for South African Building Systems and Components

Events such as flooding in Houston, USA, landslides in Free Town, Sierra Leone, water shortages in La Paz, Bolivia in 2017 and the prospect of water running out in Cape Town in South Africa in 2018 demonstrate that it is increasingly urgent that built environments become more resilient to climate change.

So how can this be done?

First, we know need to understand climate change projections and their implications at a local level as well as having large-scale global models. Detailed modelling shows that climate change impacts will be considerably different across a region, such as Southern Africa. Projections on a local scale mean that we can begin to develop practical, responsive solutions.

Second, we need to find built environment solutions that will work with projected climate changes and predicted urban change, such as growth. Many solutions already exist in traditional settlements and in passively designed buildings in adjacent climate zones. These are readily available valuable resources that can be learned from. Urban growth and change also must be understood and potential future demands, for water, for instance, modelled.

Third, lateral and innovative solutions are required. Valuable solutions will come from thinking at a larger scale and in a more integrated way; microclimates can be created and microgrids, sustainable urban drainage systems and integrated landscaping at a neighbourhood level can provide valuable ‘climatic buffers’ for buildings. Changing how we use buildings also offers solutions with activities and schedules being adapted to work with, rather than against, changing climates.

Fourth, new buildings need designs, and existing building require adaptations, which respond to projected climates over the next 50 to 100 years. Support for these designs and adaptations must be embedded in the way buildings are planned, designed and managed now to avoid redundant buildings and expensive retrofits later. Building regulations must be updated, design standards and guides revised, and manufacturers and suppliers need to make required technologies and materials available and affordable. Increased awareness and improved capacity within the built environment professionals and at local municipalities must also be developed.

These ideas are developed in a new book chapter on climate change projections and the implications for the built environment in South Africa. The reference for the chapter is:

Gibberd, J., 2018, Climate Change: Implications for South African Building Systems and Components, Green Building Handbook, Volume 11, The Essential Guide. ISBN Number: 0-62045-240-4. A preformatted version available here

Image: Deepstream