Creating a Climate Smart Built Environment

We all need to prepare for the accelerating impacts of climate change and do what we can to reduce carbon emissions.  Climate smart buildings, infrastructure and open space will help us do that.

A climate smart built environment is more resilient.  It will endure hotter and drier conditions and more frequent hazard events such as bushfires and floods without increased maintenance costs. Being climate smart also means minimising carbon emissions and creating a built environment that is safe, liveable and affordable.

URPS has been working with Baukultur on behalf of the Office for Design and Architecture South Australia investigating the possibility of Climate Smart Design Guidelines for the Built Environment, progressing the policy directions outlined in Directions for a Climate Smart South Australia.  This involved stakeholder engagement and a literature review that has identified opportunities and options to achieve a climate-smart built environment.

Most people know that a climate smart built environment involves design elements such as passive solar access, increased thermal mass, on-site power generation and storage, rainwater harvesting and storage and carefully selected landscaping.  It also includes design elements beyond individual sites that facilitate active travel, water sensitive urban design and greening to maximise cooling and hazard risk mitigation.

Climate smart design guidance need to cover macro and micro design aspects to achieve optimal outcomes.  They need to be instructive, for example, to both Regional Plans and the Planning & Design Code.  But they also need to give individuals knowledge and clarity about how their own choices and design actions can be climate smart.

Across Australia, communities are recovering from the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfire season. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and seen a forced shift in the way we live, work and play. The COVID-19 response provides evidence of how society can mobilise and adapt when threatened.  This provides inspiration for the types of change required to prepare for and mitigate climate change impacts.  As we rebuild our communities, economy and built environment, let’s make sure everything we do is climate smart.