Here’s how weather experts are teaming up with builders to climate-proof construction
Future buildings in Ireland will owe their design to meteorologists as much as architects and engineers after a ground-breaking collaboration between construction and weather experts.
Met Éireann has produced a series of reports based on past weather patterns and climate change models to warn builders about what kind of extreme conditions their structures will have to endure depending on where in the country they are located.
The reports will influence all aspects of construction – from what kind of brick is used on a private house to the strength and flexibility of steel in bridges.
They could also spell the end for the floor-to-ceiling walls of glass commonly used in modern city office blocks.
“One of the issues we cover is overheating,” said Keith Lambkin, head of Met Éireann’s climate services division.
“In Ireland we’re used to building to retain heat but we have to design buildings to let heat escape.
“That’s particularly important in buildings such as nursing homes and hospitals where people spend most of their time indoors.
“But it’s also true for built-up urban areas which can become ‘heat islands’. All those glass buildings need a rethink.”
Driving rain, the combination of intense rain and high winds, is another feature explored in depth because of the eroding effect it can have on buildings
The reports map a wide range of changing weather conditions in different parts of the country that pose particular challenges for climate-proofing buildings.
They include temperature extremes, snow loads, rainfall and soil temperature. The latter can dictate the kind of materials used in foundations or how shallow or deep pipes should be laid.
Driving rain, the combination of intense rain and high winds, is another feature explored in depth because of the eroding effect it can have on buildings.
“A different type of brick will work better in your house if where you live is subject to a lot of driving rain,” Mr Lambkin said.
“That’s the kind of information that’s need for climate resilient construction.”
The reports are publicly available from today for use by construction companies or any other interested parties.
But the Department of Housing’s Building Standards Advisory Unit has undertaken to incorporate them into national building regulations.
“This is a really important collaboration. The building standards people are the construction experts and we’re the weather experts,” said Mr Lambkin.
“When you combine the expertise, you can help ensure that a building or structure that’s meant to last 50, 70 or 100 years will actually do its job.”
The Department of Housing said the reports would also help protect public investment as they would guide the best approaches to major infrastructure projects.
The initiative was driven by a commitment made by the Government last year to establish a “national framework for climate services”.
Ireland has been hit by a series of extreme weather events in recent years with different parts of the country experiencing record temperatures, prolonged drought, severe floods and destructive cloudbursts of abnormally intense rain.