Creating and Maintaining a Resilient Built Environment

Constructing Excellence

Did you want to know the latest thinking on some of the key challenges facing the built environment as a result of  climate change are being tackled? Well the Constructing  Sustainability Theme Group on 2 July provided some of the answers with a session themed around Resilience. This blog gives a short overview the meeting.

Adaption and mitigation in the face of increased rainfall, higher wind speeds, extreme cold, overheating, more frequent storms and rising sea and river level is necessary to maintain a built environment that is resilient to the effects climate change. Practical examples of work to do just this was explored through  expert contributions from Highways England, the BRE Centre for Resilience and Polypipe.

Dean Kerwick-Chrisp of Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) outlined  the challenge of managing climate change risk as a major infrastructure client. Their  network of motorways and major roads is exposed to weather and in some parts particularly vulnerable to flooding with around 1800 incidents a year. With the long design life much of Highways England’s assets it is critical for them to understand the effects of potential changes to weather caused by climate change over the coming years. The Highways Agency produced a lot of detailed analysis of this such as their Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Framework and Climate Change Risk Assessment.


Dr Stephen Garvin is the Director of the BRE Centre for Resilience. The Centre for Resilience  delivers research and innovation in partnership with government, the construction industry and the insurance sector. It intends to work together to provide a platform for all of BRE and partners in resilience related expertise.

The BRE Trust is running a Resilience Thematic Research Programme, with the first tranche of projects having launched in April 2015 with the following themes:

  • Flood resilient repair
  • Overheating in dwellings
  • Wind gap!
  • Community Resilience
  • Disaster Resilience – developing QSAND

Workking with the insurance industry, the Centre is  developing a Flood Resilience Database (PFR-d). The overall aim of the PFR-d is to bring together sources of flood data that can be used to increase the resilience of buildings to flooding.

The Centre is also intending to launch a demonstration project at the BRE site in Garston.

Stephen’s main comments were about the need for      Research to address the big picture of adaptation achieved through projects at different scales,

  • Research: component research is needed, but understand where it fits in resilience systems – a challenge
  • Building (design, construction, operation, maintenance, end-of-life) cycle – how can we embed resilience at each stage
  • Do we need a Resilience of the Built Environment Report! – ‘Lathom, Egan, Pitt… type’?


Phil Henry of Polypipe led the group through some of the technological solutions to resilience issues that they have been developing. Management of water and overheating of buildings?are key in thinking about resilience in urban environments. Phil gave examples of innovative approaches such as “blue roofs” which retain water on top of the roof helping to manage overheating while also reducing the need for large water tanks taking up space in basements,