Climate Scientists Called on to Produce Projections for Architects
There is now more information available than ever about how our climate is likely to change. Why aren’t architects using those projections to design safer, more resilient buildings?
The University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) and HGA recently conducted a study to answer that question. According to the findings, “A&E professionals are aware of and interested in using climate-projection data in their work.” But the barriers are myriad, with the top five cited as:
- Clients aren’t asking for the data.
- It is unclear what products and services are available.
- Practitioners feel they would need to hire an individual or team to offer such services.
- Liability concerns with using climate-projection data to inform design decisions
- Data are not in the format(s) used by building analysis/design tools
As a result, most architects and engineers continue to use historical weather files from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which not only fail to consider future predictions but also, for some locations, are more than three decades old.
Many of the barriers relate to the fact that understanding how to use projection data is currently time intensive and requires rare expertise to “downscale” for use in modeling tools, explain the researchers. The data that’s freely available—such as from Localized Constructed Analogs (LOCA), CalAdapt, ResilientMA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—is not in a format that is accessible to building designers and engineers. Files used for energy modeling typically include hourly values for variables like temperature and humidity, while climate-projection files most often provide daily values. “Ideally, climate data developers would evaluate the needs of the A&E industry as end users of the data and address those needs in the format and delivery of climate-projection data,” says the report.
When climate-projection data are used, practitioners are directionally informing conversations with clients, risk assessments, or design strategies, according to survey respondents. It is rarer to use the data as inputs into analysis tools or energy models, or to inform system sizing.
The report concludes with recommended actions for various groups, including:
- Climate scientists and modelers should include architecture and engineering professionals in the development of their reports.
- Trade associations for architects and engineers should be providing guidance on how to use climate-projection data and should integrate future climate conditions into their codes.
- Architecture and engineering schools should be educating students about climate change and exposing them to projection data.
- Clients should select for climate resilience expertise and require projection data to be considered in design.
- Policy makers should require consideration of climate-projection data in building codes and standards.
More on using climate projections in design:
Pearson, C. (2023, April 19). Climate Scientists Called on to Produce Projections for Architects. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/newsbrief/climate-scientists-called-produce-projections-architects