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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Weathering the Storm

This weekend I got well and truly stuck. Snowed-in to be specific. Not something that happens often in the UK. Even more freakishly it only took around ten minutes of snow to make three different routes out of the valley I was in unpassable, at least as far as my car was concerned (low-profile tyres and a torque-y diesel engine do not make a happy combination for driving on snow).

It got me thinking about climate change — most immediately how that is a much better name for what is happening than Global Warming. Kudos to the PR team who engineered that one.

Looking at the fairly basic, but very informative BBC Online pages about climate change, you can see that it will probably mean three things for the UK. More flooding, higher average temperatures, and more wind and rain. Given that our architecture isn’t designed for these conditions — as demonstrated by the casualties of last week’s winds — and that there simply isn’t enough space in the UK to move everyone to higher ground, we’re going to need some pretty innovative solutions.

House design could change in some fairly interesting ways. For example, roof structures will need to be redesigned and refurbished so that they are less susceptible to winds and torrential downpours. Thousands of houses in the UK have ageing roofs that wind can easily get under, and water can easily get through. Perhaps the roofing business is a good place to be right now? Especially if you can combine roof reinforcement with photovoltaic panels, which are slowly falling in price.

Flood plains are fairly common in the UK — too common for everyone to just move out of them. So will we see areas of land artificially raised? Or perhaps streets and houses built on stilts/piles that take them above water? If not, it might be time to start shopping for a houseboat, if you live near a river.

Heavy rains are bizarrely difficult for the water companies to capture. The fact that parts of the UK have only just come out of a hosepipe ban, tells us something is going to need to be done about the water infrastructure. Not only must we waste less, we must become more efficient at capturing what does fall in heavy rains.

Power infrastructure too will need to be reinforced. Given the relatively light lashing (by future standards) the UK received, it was disturbing how many people were without power, and for how long.

Tom Cheesewright