Even though we are aware of the negative impacts of climate change, we are drifting closer to the tipping point. The damage from climate change is on track to impact every single industry, including construction and housing.
People associated with the housing industry, including surveyors, planners, residential architects, and many more, are trying their best to maintain this impact. We are at a stage where the damage has become irreversible.
Owing to climate change, homeowners and renters alike are progressing toward a much different future than we may have imagined. Drastic steps, organizational shifts, and a targeted approach on a macro and micro level are now the need of the hour.
The Future of Housing
In recent years, climate change has taught people how to salvage the situation. Cultivating sustainability has now become an integral part of human lives. As a result, homeowners from all over are spearheading the environmental movement in their homes.
Green construction and sustainable building are simple and effective ways for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint. In most municipalities and towns, new houses must now meet several environmental standards to receive planning permission.
Let’s explore some key takeaways from climate change on housing.
Rising Homeowner Costs
Surprisingly, climate change could create a domino effect and impact homeowner costs, especially in the form of insurance rates. Insurance companies in the wildfire-prone areas of California are now limiting the coverage for homebuyers. Increasing insurance rates will make coverage expensive for homeowners and can make ownership difficult for prospective buyers.
Despite the mild winter, one critical impact of climate change is the fast progression to severe winter conditions. Burst pipes are one of the most famous impacts on housing owing to climate change. These can cause severe damage to properties. With the increase of the cold spell, homeowners must be ready to witness a rise in burst pipes. Homeowners must consider if they are at risk and what measures must they take to mitigate them.
Poor Indoor Quality
Green design has presented a plethora of sustainable improvements including improved indoor air quality. According to the World Health Organization, over 7 million people lose their lives due to household and outdoor air pollution.
Most city dwellers are not even aware that they are breathing in contaminated air. This phenomenon known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is highly common. It entails symptoms such as cough, nausea, or throat irritation. Although quite common, SBS goes unnoticed in urban settings due to large populations.
Increased Material Costs
The unethical supply chain is one of the primary reasons for high building material costs. However, in terms of impact, it would be foolish to overlook the role essayed by climate change. An example could be the price of lumber. Homeowners in many areas indicate that despite increasing lumber production, they witnessed their property values depreciate within the same timeline.
Deforestation and water crises are likely to keep the forests from thriving, decreasing the availability of usable wood and keeping prices high.
Increased Risk of Weather Events
Climate change brings with it plenty of side effects. Some effects are more extreme and damaging than others. Extreme weather conditions ranging from floods and hurricanes to drought and unexpected snowstorms have increased their frequency in recent years.
Modern residential architects now take into effect the impact of these weather events. And they do so throughout the construction process. For example, in flood-prone areas, residential buildings now utilize flood-resistant materials, better forms of construction, and sustainable measures.
The increasing temperature causes higher evaporation of the moisture trapped in the soil. The drying of soil could cause a loss of structural strength below ground and increase the risk of subsidence. Subsidence could also occur as a result of trees located close to homes absorbing water from the soil, thereby stripping the soil of its moisture, and increasing evaporation.
This phenomenon can cause irreparable damage to homes and also impact their sale. If the walls in your home exhibit significant cracks, immediate action are required.
Climate change has also had a significant impact on housing affordability. In many areas, homeowners are facing consistent damage to their homes that require repair. Homeowners in these locations must enhance their resilience by retrofitting their homes. However, these costs are often out of reach for many and those who cannot afford to repair them will be forced to remain in debilitating conditions.
Depreciating Home Values
Increasing climate change also impacts property values. Studies indicate that flooding caused by rising sea levels has resulted in monetary losses of billions of dollars in home value appreciation in the past 15 years across the East Coast.
Like insurance agencies, banks are also taking notes of the risks posed by climate change. With the potential of banks to face immense financial losses due to climate change, they may begin to decline mortgages for properties in risky areas. This can hinder home affordability for millions of people and also drive home value depreciation as well.
Exposure to Extreme Heat and Cold
Cardiac failure and respiratory infections (in the case of cold) are related to temperature extremes, which could result from insufficient housing design. Inadequate household heating, insulation, or ventilation could aggravate the effects of climate change. Poor households are the worst hit as the poor are unable to afford heating and cooling for their homes. Factors of cold indoor conditions comprise the dwelling’s age, household income, heating costs, etc.
Where New Housing Should Be Built
Due to unawareness over the years, most of the housing construction around the west coast has occurred in areas that are prone to the effects of climate change. Historically, climate change has not been a significant consideration in locating new housing. However, with the increase in environmental effects, this must change. The risks posed by changing climate must be considered as a more critical factor when building new housing.
Climate change will not only affect where new housing should be built but also how it should be built. This comprises the design of individual houses and larger communities. Housing communities in high-risk areas such as fire or flooding must be designed with adequate access for evacuation. Modern designs must also incorporate design elements that could serve as barriers such as greenbelts or roads.
Upwards and Onwards
To ensure the protection of current homeowners and prospective buyers, resilience must be harnessed to create better and safer, and affordable communities. Green infrastructure, circular economy, and promoting sustainability are just a few ways that can help improve and better the impact the housing sector has on the climate.
Residential architects, builders, designers, etc. are trying to play their part by updating homeowners on how they could mitigate the negative impacts of construction and home development.
Acting on resilience could also result in city-wide benefits and also contribute to the affordability and vibrancy of housing.