How can our suburbs adapt to climate change?

Issue date: 29 September 2009

Terraced Housing A new EPSRC funded research project led by the University of the West of England, (UWE, Bristol), will look at how suburban neighbourhoods can adapt to cope with climate change. Professor Katie Williams of UWE will lead the SNACC (Suburban Neighbourhood Adaptation for a Changing Climate) project with partners at Oxford Brookes University, Heriot-Watt University and several international partners. SNACC is funded by an EPSRC grant of £651,000.

The project will look at both the social and technological aspects of how the built fabric of neighbourhoods can be adapted to reduce further impacts of climate change. The SNACC team will research what works best in terms of the technical performance of various adaptations but also in terms of how practical they are and how acceptable they are likely to be to those responsible for implementing them.

Three councils, Oxford City, Stockport and Bristol City will provide key information which will help support the three cases studies in these areas.

The project leader, Professor Katie Williams, is an urban theorist, planner and urban designer who specialises in how built environments can support sustainability.

Professor Williams explains, “80% of people in the UK live in suburbs, so this is the environment in which the majority of our domestic lives will be affected by climate change. At the moment we are not doing anything to alter these environments to cope with the consequences of climate change. Most research so far has concentrated on issues relating to urban areas, and very little attention has been paid to how to reduce further impacts of climate change in suburban areas and also to withstand ongoing changes.”

“We know that our summers will gradually become hotter and drier, our winters will be wetter and milder, and that there will be an increase in extreme events – such as more frequent high temperatures, heavy rain and high speed winds.”

“This research will look at actions we can take to cope with higher temperatures. For example it may be a question of planting more trees to increase shading, installing ponds and rain water systems to enable us to re-use rainwater in the garden and home. To cope with extreme weather events, we may need to consider whether our roofs can withstand high winds and flooding events. In addition we will look at public spaces and the role local authorities can play to mitigate against climate change. There may be a case for example for additional open spaces and water features such as ponds and fountains in our public spaces.”

“A key aspect of our research will be to look at the social side of all this and to see what adaptations would be practical and acceptable to home owners. Our team will include social scientists and psychologists working together with experts in transport, the built environment and climate change, so that we can find the best solutions to some of these climate change issues, to enable home owners and local authorities to play their part in mitigating against climate change.”

For further news stories from the Faculty of Environment and Technology, see:

New Pro Vice-Chancellor will build on UWE's strengths

UWE builds on success

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