Rain falling


As our climate changes, the frequency and severity of extreme weather events is likely to increase. Impacts on the built environment include:

  • flooding from rivers, surface water or the sea
  • coastal erosion
  • overheating
  • storm damage
  • poor air quality

We have a particular focus on bringing together the latest evidence in flooding and overheating. EPSRC have funded a number of projects in these areas, also looking at the impacts of extreme events on health and wellbeing.

Built environment & extremes – ARCC Assembly 2014

Participants at the ARCC Assembly in June 2014 identified the strengths, challenges and opportunities for the built environment. The discussion highlighted the need to raise awareness, build capacity for decision-making and inform action, as well as to identify research gaps in understanding.


  • Recognition that there are implications for planning and urban growth, including the burden of costs for responding to, and recovering from, extremes. Improving resilience to extremes has economic and social benefits
  • Increased interest in the links between Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA)
  • Increased awareness of the vulnerability of the built environment to extremes and the importance of addressing these vulnerabilities now and in the near future
  • Understanding the need to think beyond overheating in designing the built environment for future climate.

There is an active research community and research results on which to draw:

  • Integrating, synthesising and expanding existing knowledge and research represented within the ARCC and broader EPSRC and other RCs’ investments
  • There is some (limited) information on the relationship between health, stress and coping with extremes linked with the built environment
  • Interdisciplinary methods and research outputs are available
  • Increasing focus within the climate science community on understanding extremes, including within climate projections
  • Knowledge and expertise available through ARCC network and other related research and studies – international and other national research programmes – includes design guides, case studies from European and other international studies, reports on work within cities and related cities’ networks.

There are opportunities to influence and change the built environment through technology and policy, including building on public and political awareness of our vulnerability:

  • Potential to have an impact and realise benefits from integrating knowledge – increased understanding of complex socio-technical interactions
  • Openness for cross-council funding of research and knowledge exchange
  • Opportunity to bring together the health and human sciences with those working on the built environment, and to inform the further development of climate information and knowledge
  • Opportunity for engagement of communities and other stakeholders.


  • It is important to include a focus on systems that link health and well-being to the built environment, as well as links between the built environment and the infrastructure providing the required services
  • It is difficult to merge the physical built environment issues with social and health issues – we need to highlight the economic benefits of health and well-being
  • Data and projections for extreme events, especially within cities and urban areas, are not widely available. This makes inclusion of uncertainties challenging for decision-makers
  • The limitations are particularly acute where information on the spatial and temporal coincidence of extremes and multiple hazards is sparse
  • Available data on the built environment, beyond new build, is limited
  • There is little data on the actual performance of buildings pre- and post-installation of modifications, so there’s a limited evidence base on which to base decisions
  • We’re lacking information on solutions that factor health and well-being into the business case for adaptation and resilience – this includes user-centred design.
  • It is vital to be able to access knowledge, data and tools beyond the life of a research project.
  • The multi- and trans-disciplinary nature of the required research needs to draw on:
  • built environment – engineering and physical sciences
  • natural sciences – hazards and climatological research
  • social, ethics and health sciences
  • It is essential to engage a large number of ‘stakeholders’ – including local authorities, emergency responders, social and health care agencies, planners, professional bodies, etc.
  • Synthesising and mobilising knowledge and information to inform decision-making at individual, neighbourhood, local and national level, targeting information for the audiences
  • Tools to support understanding and decision-making are needed, moving from generic decision-support tools to those that are adaptable and can factor in local information – transferrable and not site specific
  • Further exploration will identify knowledge and information gaps for research, knowledge exchange and associated investments.


  • Informing stakeholders with up-to-date and useful scientific information.
  • Taking advantage of the public interest in being involved in, and contributing to, knowledge exchange and research
  • Provide opportunities for private companies and stakeholders to get involved
  • Mutual secondments and hackathons – communal, collaborative computer programming events – to engage stakeholders
  • Innovations and opportunities for the adaptation and resilience market to contribute to the economy.

Who should be involved?

We must recognise the benefit of engaging others through communicating clear benefits of research or a programme for their scale of interest, e.g. local versus national interests. It is also important to target those with the ability to influence and make change.

  • Local councils – planning, emergency response, housing, social and health care agencies
  • LEPs
  • Central governments – DCLG, emergency planning and response, DH (and PHE, NHS and SDU)
  • Utility companies
  • Neighbourhood community groups
  • Consultancies/businesses
  • Associated professional groups – RIBA, RICS, TCPA, etc
  • Building designers
  • Construction industry
  • Academic institutions
  • WHO Europe