Building for climate change
If you're an eco-savvy person thinking about building a new house soon; aside from designs and materials that are environmentally friendly, you should probably also pay special attention to protecting your investment from the same environment that is now in turmoil.
This is becoming an increasingly important aspect in my plans for my own "green" existence in the years ahead. I want the next structure I build to not only have little impact on the surrounding area and be self-sufficient energy and water wise - but I want it to last and to stand up to unforeseen climatic events.
When architects draft house plans, they usually do so bearing in mind the environment in which the house will be constructed. This includes the weather patterns. For example, a house built in a cyclone or hurricane prone area will require features (often by law) that a structure in an area that isn't prone to high winds wouldn't need.
With global warming induced climate change starting to make itself felt, and since none of us really know any more what the weather patterns in our area will be like even 5 years from now; it's important to protect your investment by thinking ahead. You only need to read the news each day to see evidence of an angry planet. I'm increasingly seeing headlines related to extreme weather events and a "storm of the century" is occurring yearly in some places.
While what is yet to occur weather-wise is unforeseen, we can take advantage of what scientists have been able to tell us about the years to come. An example of this is water. In our state, rainfall is expected to reduce in the decades ahead; and we'll see more rain "events" rather than rain periods. This means less rain and what rain does fall will do so in more concentrated bursts.
Given this, my new house will have larger storage tanks and greater roof surface area. Landscaping-wise, I'll be planting native trees that are the least thirsty of the local species.
The structure will also be strengthened to withstand higher winds than what is required by local regulations. Wind turbines, which weren't an option before, may become a viable alternative or adjunct to solar panels. Extra expansion joints will be an important feature to cope with extremes in temperature. Even now in our city; people are reporting huge cracks appearing in brick wall due to the drought. Drainage is another important aspect. After a dry spell the ground can be somewhat resistant to soaking up moisture and initial rains can just sit on the surface causing flooding problems.
The idea is to design your house so that regardless of which way our weather patterns go, it will take whatever nature can throw at it - within reason. No doubt it will add many thousands of dollars to the cost of the structure, but it's better that than have the very thing you're trying to live more in harmony with, nature, destroy your earth friendly living dreams.
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