Climate change and facilities management for charities

The climate is fundamental to almost all aspects of our lives: it directly affects our health, food, water, environment, economy, and infrastructure. 

Recent years have seen a range of extreme weather events, such as flooding, severe winters, and warmer than average summers. These events have had caused significant disruption and have had a high financial cost.

The changing weather is associated with a rise in global average temperatures.  Global temperatures are projected to continue increasing, which is likely to cause continued changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. 

How will climate change affect the UK?

The Government undertook a ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment’ in 2012. The assessment gives a detailed analysis of 100 potential effects of climate change.

A full analysis of all the 100 effects is available in the report. This article brieflly looks at the risks that the report directly associated with the built environment and UK infrastructure.

Impacts on the built environment and infrastructure

The report says buildings and infrastructure will be affected by extreme weather events and also long-term gradual change in the climate. 

Flooding is identified as the most significant risk. 

Limited availability of water and overheating of buildings, particularly in cities, are predicted to be increasingly significant by the middle of the century. 

What can you do?

The Charities Facilities Management Group believes that -- as far as is reasonably possible --  charities should adopt sustainable practice in facilities management.  

Managing climate change risks

For facilities managers the most obvious risks include extreme weather, particularly flooding, and increasing temperatures, as well as disruption to supply chains. 

Flood related risks include:

  • River flooding 
  • Urban/flash flooding during heavy downpours 
  • Coastal erosion

Steps for facilities managers to consider

  • Check whether any of your buildings are in flood-prone areas
  • If possible, avoid building or leasing properties in areas where flooding is likely 
  • Maintain and upgrade rainwater goods and drainage systems 
  • Consider upgrading rainwater goods and drainage systems to cope with higher flows
  • Maintain the building envelope against rain penetration 
  • Include the possibility of severe disruption due to flooding in contingency planning

Risks from higher temperatures

  • Increasing heat levels, particularly in cities
  • Subsidence

What facilities managers can do:

  • Modify buildings and the surrounding environment to improve heat shielding
  • Modify buildings to improve ventilation.
  • Give extra consideration to heat reduction measures when specifying new buildings or refurbishment work.
  • Be aware of subsidence risks: if soil drys out, foundations can move; walls crack, doors and windows stick, service pipes crack. 
    • If cracking appears, monitor building movement. 
    • Check for large trees near service pipes. 
    • In new-build, consider upgrading foundation design.

Wider risks

Climate change impacts are not just confined to those that directly hit this country. The UK economy relies heavily on imports and exports and, therefore there is high dependency on overseas factors such as transport and communication and supply chains. 

This means that charities, even those not working abroad, will need to consider potential climate change impacts in their strategic supply-chain planning.