While people can sit around endlessly debating how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a smaller-scale solution that can have a huge impact is designing homes that can adapt to climate change. These issues won't go away, and people can either adapt or wait for disaster to strike without preparation.
Climate change has long been a concern for scientists and the intellectual community. It has taken quite a long time, however, to enter the public discussion as a serious issue. Now, talk about climate change is finally breaking through around the world.
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Proactive adaptation is key to surviving the future impacts of climate change, and it can start right in the home. Here are some suggestions for designing a house that can survive the worst of what climate change brings:
As temperatures rise, homes need to adapt to the heat.
Design Buildings With Cooling-Load Avoidance
Increased solar radiation means newer structures will have to compensate for the solar gain on their east and west sides. There are many ways to solve this, both internally and externally.
The building's shape could be designed to allow shade in the areas that receive the most sun. If the building shape does not take shade into account, external devices could be installed for shading. The use of reflective roofs, more insulation and large windows could reduce the amount of heat the buildings absorb.
Use High-Efficiency Equipment
Most things we use on a daily basis require electric power. Some of them, however, aren't that efficient when it comes to energy use. This results in large amounts of waste heat that are put out by an inefficient device.
Equipment is frequently replaced, and choosing efficient equipment before building design can spearhead a climate-change proof building project.
Use More Landscaping
Nature is especially great for cooling down buildings. Trees and green roofs help control heat gain and can even channel breezes for natural ventilation. Plus, they make the external appearance more beautiful.
Here’s what to do to combat dry conditions.
Avoid Overdevelopment in Dry Regions
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but the houses and business parks just keep popping up. In some places, developers must prove there will be an adequate water supply for a certain amount of years after the house is built.
Unfortunately, this isn't yet enough to combat the growing cities out west that are well on their way to running out of water.
Implement Greywater Separation
All the wastewater from your house, excluding toilets, can be recycled and used again. It is easier to treat because of the low levels of contaminants in the water. It can be reused for irrigational purposes, as flushing toilet water and can even be harvested for heat.
Although greywater reuse is still a relatively new concept and is currently starting to gain ground in some states, it won't be a surprise to see a widespread acceptance of this technique in the future.
Rainwater can be used for a number of purposes: outdoor irrigation, toilet flushing and even for potable use. It is still illegal in some states, but as those states face water shortages, they will likely turn to this strategy.
Flooding and Storm Protection
Protect your home from rising tides.
No Building in Flood Zones
Following the old plan of 100-year flood zones may not be enough when flood warnings are issued more often. Buildings should be either excluded from flood zones in a best-case scenario, or guaranteed to be protected over extended time periods, perhaps up to 500 years.
Design Better Stormwater Basins
Stormwater management is already being strained by stronger storms. Larger stormwater basins must be built, and they can even rely on natural features or designs that have double uses.
Design Buildings That Survive Extreme Winds
Wind is one of the most deadly aspects of a storm. To combat intense winds, houses can be retrofitted with impact-resistant windows, hurricane-proof garage doors, doors that open outward, anchored walls and walls that resist certain types of forces.
Elevate Buildings and Equipment
This simple solution guarantees that flood damage will be minimized, but while it looks good on paper, a developer must make sure to seal and insulate the raised floors with great care.
Use Materials That Will Survive Floods
Materials that can get wet and then dry out without much damage are ideal here. Examples of these materials include preservative-treated wood, tile for floors and walls, and fiberglass drywall.
It’s important to make sure your home is at an advantage when it comes to fire protection.
Make Sure Roofing Is Class A
The roof is the part of a house that gets engulfed in flames most easily. This is why roofs should be specified as Class A to ensure they will not be the first part of the house to go.
Eliminate Gutters or Maintain Them
Objects get caught in gutters all the time, which only provides more tinder for fires. This happens with both metal and vinyl gutters, and it becomes even more of a problem because the gutter either stays in place while burning or melts and falls to the ground, spreading the flames.
Getting rid of gutters entirely solves this problem, but gutter screens can be implemented if it's not an option. Also, homeowners should make sure to clean their gutters frequently.
Be Careful With Deck Materials
Plastic and wood decks are easily susceptible to fires and will only speed up the burning process. A homeowner should ensure that their deck is made from a fireproof material and that any combustible materials or vegetation are away from it.
Manage Vegetation Around the House
Since vegetation catches fire fast, it is best to practice safe landscaping around the home. Keep dry grass and leaves at least 30 feet away from the house, prune trees to a 10 foot distance away from the roof and select high-moisture plants.
Make sure you are prepared to deal with power outages safely.
Buildings Should Maintain Passive Survivability
If the power went out, how long could someone live in a building without power? To prolong the survivability of a building when it is off the grid, designers could implement the power suggestions discussed above and more, like high insulation levels, triple-glazed windows, cooling-load avoidance geometry and solar heating.
Use Site-Generated Electricity
Renewable energy sources that are close to the building could provide aid in the event of a power outage. Solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric facilities linked to buildings would be a quick solution in this event.
Communities Should Maintain Function Without Power
People need to remain mobile during a power outage, so it is within a developer's best interest to design communities with this in mind. Pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use communities that are located in open spaces should be a high priority.
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Of course, there are many other ways to combat the age of climate change. Have any more suggestions? Comment below.