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Push to help engineers tackle climate change

Efforts to adapt buildings and structures to cope with the increasing threat from climate change will get a boost this month with the launch of a multimillion pound government-funded research competition.

Grant programme

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is offering grants worth up to £100,000 to help engineers devise strategies which will persuade their clients to do more to manage climate change risks.

The grant programme will provide much needed knowledge, practical advice and case studies to help engineers design buildings that are more appropriate to the environment of the future.

“What is different here is that we are looking at adapting to climate change rather than trying to stop it happening,” said TSB lead technologist for low impact buildings Fionnuala Costello.

TSB has £4.9M to plough into around 50 projects intended to convince clients to incorporate climate change adaptation into new and existing buildings.

Winning teams or individuals will receive contracts worth up to £100,000 to carry out additional design work on existing projects, and to explore ways to introduce greater robustness and adaptation to climate change over a building’s commercial lifetime.

The competition, “Design for Future Climate: Adapting Buildings”, will be held in two stages with applications for the first £2.5M of funding accepted between 14 June and 22 July. A second round to award a further £2.4M will be held in 2011.

“It is really about raising awareness of the issue among professionals.”

Fionnuala Costello

The competition was prompted by a growing awareness that the design profession was failing to embrace
the need to adapt building designs for climate change. There was also a perception that designers had
little information to support such a change in thinking.

Any designer working on a new build project or on a retrofit to an existing building is eligible to enter the competition - provided the building is not a domestic dwelling. Eligible projects include infrastructure buildings such as power stations and railway stations but not the infrastructure connecting them.

“At the moment we are keeping [the scope of the competition] very open,” said Costello. “It is really about raising awareness of the issue among professionals.”

Costello said the impact of the recent 2009 UK climate change predictions on building design assumptions were still not well appreciated by designers and said that as a result, clients were not being made aware of the potential risks.

She said the winning bidders would be awarded contracts “to do thinking” about the application of measures to adapt buildings to climate change.

They will be asked to provide guidance and case studies rather than coming up with any huge leaps in innovation.

But she pointed out that significant sums of money were available to generate case studies, analysis and feedback.

Hope for momentum

It is hoped this will start to build momentum among professionals and building clients in the design and retrofitting of buildings for climate change.

“Clients don’t want to spend extra money without having evidence from the evaluation of the options [for adapting to future climate change risks],” she said.

“We want people to overcome these barriers.”

  • For details of how to enter go to www.innovateuk.org

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