Our existing buildings and infrastructure were designed for a climate that is disappearing. Sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events becoming more common. Old assumptions and tolerances no longer apply.

There is a pressing need to integrate climate resilience into our built environment. So, how do we achieve the adaptation we need? Climate resilience is the ability to recover from, or to mitigate our vulnerability to, climate related events.

As we built dams to protect against flooding to allow communities to become more resilient against localised climate shocks, so we must develop climate change mitigation strategies and new technologies to help our built environment resist global climate impacts. To do this we must be aware of what we are trying to be resilient to, how long we have to establish a national adaptation plan, and who will develop it. 

At Arup, we help clients in public and private sectors to develop climate resilience at different scales. It requires a combination of environmental science, business analysis and local climate insights. From there you can start to build a plan for resilience that takes account of the real threats an area faces. There have been many efforts made to maintain existing systems and structures, from improved insulation to increased green roofing in order to mitigate against water run-off and temperature extremes.

But as the climate situation develops, with projections overall pointing to a more severe crisis, climate resilience will only be achieved by more fundamental changes in how we organise, design and construct our built environment to become ecologically sustainable.

Climate resilience takes a different form in every context, organisation, city and country. We help clients to assess their vulnerabilities and create workable plans for mitigations to the threats they face. It’s a very dynamic area of business or government activity, one which requires leadership, commitment and a willingness to radically rethink operations.

Dr Matt Kennedy

Director, Arup