The buildings we are building now will need to adapt to climate and social changes not just in the long term but in the next five years

Matt Fulford

Adaptability of buildings is one of the key features of a sustainable future – but not as you think of it.

Allowing for buildings to be adapted to meet the future needs of occupants has been a feature of sustainable development for a while with the inclusion of elements such as Life Time Homes within the Code for Sustainable Homes.

Designing buildings and infrastructure so that it can adapt to the changing climate such as over-heating and floods has also been much discussed but how about in the short term? In many cases we are failing to plan now for adaptations which will need to be made or which we could benefit from over the next five years.

For example, an interesting element of British Gas’ statement about why their profits had fallen this year was that they claimed their customers had consumed less gas due to the warmer weather. Department of Energy and Climate Change figures suggest that savings of 12% in heating bills should have been gained from the warmer conditions over the last 12 months but I wonder how many commercial properties are reporting on 12%+ savings on their heating consumption.

As the climate does warm are we designing and operating our buildings so that they realise the benefit in reduced heating costs instead of continuing to run them within fixed parameters withonly minor gains?

Our buildings will become re-fuelling points for electric cars

The second short term adaption which we should be preparing for is the change in transportation fuel. Having placed my order for a new electric car with a range extender I may have some bias in this area but over the coming three years we should be expecting a major increase in the use of electric cars as their range and specification increases (most are forecasting that within three to four years ranges of 200 miles and from one charge will be available with mainstream manufacturers).

This means that our buildings will become re-fuelling points as we see less filling of the tank at petrol stations and more plugging in when we park for work, shopping or leisure. This does represent an opportunity for building operators who could provide these facilities to gain operational revenue from charging.

Rather than thinking about flooding and overheating when climate change adaptation is mentioned let’s think a little bit more here and now and consider gaining from a warmer climate and creating a revenue stream from buildings becoming the electric charging stations over the next few years.

Matt Fulford is the director of Inspired Efficiency