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Betws Washery

This is a mixed use scheme on 5.5 ha of land in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire. It comprises:

  • a foodstore
  • petrol filling station
  • drive-through restaurant
  • a retail terrace
  • starter units
  • doctors surgery
  • retirement complex
  • a residential scheme.

The study investigates the effects of climate change on buildings constructed with a frame and lightweight cladding. It focuses on the foodstore, and retail terrace because they were to be built in this way and the land as a whole.

Further project details

1. What approach did you take in assessing risks and identifying adaptation measures to mitigate the risks?

Weather trends were analysed using UKCP09 probabilistic data. The 2050 high emissions scenario with a 90 per cent confidence interval was chosen because it has the right order of magnitude compared with the control data for assessing risk to this type of property – it erred on exaggerating the effect for the purposes of teasing out vulnerabilities and opportunities for adaptation.

The effect these weather trends would have on the foodstore, retail units and the external areas was then examined using a number of techniques. This exposed vulnerabilities in three thematic areas:

  • thermal comfort and energy use
  • water management
  • green infrastructure.

Twenty-three potential adaptations were explored during the study. Most were conceived at the risk assessment stage as part of the process of understanding the vulnerabilities but others emerged as the work progressed in more detail. The impact of each was assessed and cost-benefit analysis carried out. This process generated 46 separate conclusions, which became the material for shaping the strategy.

The strategy comprised grouping the adaptations into 5 recommendations geared to the way these buildings are procured in this sector and the respective interests of the various parties involved:

  • Recommendation 1 is designed to appeal directly to the developer without any need to refer to other demand side parties because practically all the adaptations produce added value with a negligible cost implication therefore not needing justification via cost benefit analysis. They represent good design and should become standard practice throughout the industry.
  • Recommendation 2 has adaptations that do incur cost, which although modest as a proportion of the total capital cost, would be sufficient to make them vulnerable to cost engineering. Again the recommendation is designed to appeal to the developer without reference to other demand side parties because the two adaptations make it easier to obtain statutory consents.
  • Recommendation 3 reflects adaptations that solely affect fit-out and of no financial interest to the developer or investor. The benefits are very direct because they affect the operational costs of the building. The question is not so much whether they should be done but when. The vulnerabilities exposed by climate change are in the long term and, because the major re-fit cycle is approximately 10 years, it makes no sense to implement them now unless there are co-benefits to warrant it. The recommendation is to pass on the learning about these adaptation on to the tenant through, say, the building manual.
  • Recommendation 4 has adaptations that have potential but need to be explored with more R&D to see whether this is the case. Although initially directed at the developer client, these are more focused on the supply side of the industry – designers/engineers, and manufacturers. Can good solutions be developed to offer to investors and tenants? The development and take up of these potential adaptations in this category is not simply a technical matter because they straddle the divide between passive built-in measures that the investor pays for, and the fit-out plant side that the tenant is responsible for. So the solutions also need to address procurement, financing and lease questions.
  • Recommendation 5 is a set of measures that all bring so many benefits that they cannot be ignored but they either raise difficult issues, or are too expensive to be easily recommended. They all fall into a position where the developer would need to champion the cause. As such they are presented as optional extras.

2. How have you communicated the risks and recommendations with your client? What methods worked well?

  • Copied into relevant correspondence and reports.
  • One to one briefing meeting.
  • Workshop session with client and whole team.
  • SurveyMonkey questionnaire.

The last three worked well.

3. What tools have you used to assess overheating and flood risks?

  • PROMETHEUS weather files produced by Exeter University
  • Selected literature review zz TSB knowledge sharing
  • The checklist provided by the TSB as part of the contract
  • Thermal modelling software IES VE
  • SBEM
  • Modeller software for translating CAD drawings into the format for IES modelling.

4. What has the client agreed to implement as a result of your adaptation work?

Client agreed with:

  • Recommendations 1 to 4
  • from Recommendation 5: only 1 out of the 5 adaptations was agreed (removal of rooflights).

5. What were the major challenges so far in doing this adaptation work?

The working methods for the adaptation project are more akin to research than to professional practice and therefore unfamiliar to the team even though they are experienced practitioners in their respective fields. So the team required a lot of leadership and management in a way that wouldn’t be necessary for normal familiar project work. There are several consequences:

  • management time consumes resource, which then becomes unavailable for the content of the study
  • it was difficult for team members to delegate parts of the work because its nature is not a matter of routine practice. This made it difficult to manage the competing demands of other projects in the office with a tendency for the D4FC project to be put aside temporarily
  • resuming work that is put aside is not efficient because it take time to retrace thinking especially since it is so non-routine, all of which compounds the tendency for delays.

The variety of methods that need to be married up coherently:

  • quantitative approaches use tools that all have certain flaws, so a qualitative overview is required to make sure that the results and conclusions make sense
  • qualitative approaches need to include pragmatic ways of estimating size of effect to have an understanding of their significance.

6. What advice would you give others undertaking adaptation strategies?

Narrow the scope of the field as much as possible to keep the team size as small as possible to maximise the amount of resource available for producing content as opposed to management.