Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City

Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City

EuroAsia review in an Observer Research Foundation analysis of Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City NEOM and its related ‘The Line’ as projects with a larger objective. The picture above is for illustration and is of NEOM Properties and Real Estate.

Analysis: Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City

By Ramanath Jha

Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces “The Line” project at NEOM. (SPA)

In 2017, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, announced the launch of the nation’s futuristic and fully automated business zone, NEOM. This hi-tech business hub, to be located in the Tabuk province in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast, is to be established at a cost of US $500 billion (INR 37.5 lakh crore). The region has been selected in view of its relatively mild climate. Most of Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely oppressive day temperatures of above 45° Celsius. The project’s total area is slated to be 26,500 square kilometre and will link Jordan and Egypt via Saudi territory. The project is expected to generate 380,000 jobs and contribute US $48 billion (INR 36,000 crore) to the kingdom’s GDP by 2030.

More recently, in Jan 2021, the Crown Prince also announced that, as part of the NEOM project, a zero-carbon city called ‘The Line’ would be set up. The Crown Prince labelled the city project as a “civilisational plan that puts humans first”. ‘The Line’ is crafted as a linear city for one million people, running 170 kilometre long, with a width that would be walkable in five minutes. It is anticipated that people from all over the world would be drawn by the city’s excellent environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure and superior quality of life.

‘The Line’ is not designed to be a conventional city but a futuristic one. A city’s usual amenities such as schools, hospitals, and gardens will be carefully crafted in view of the residents’ expected proclivity towards the availability of top-quality education, health, and recreation. Additionally, the city would position itself as a top tourist destination. The Saudi administration also seeks to dispel any misgivings about the governance model that ‘The Line’ would follow. The entire NEOM area, including ‘The Line’, will be a free trade zone with its own tax structure and an autonomous legal system.

The technological and environmental plans of the “zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions” city have drawn the most attention. Drawings of ‘The Line’ show the city infrastructure and services arranged in three layers. The top layer, above ground, will be a pedestrian layer. It will be supported by two underground layers. The one immediately below ground will be the service layer of physical infrastructure. And further below the service layer will be the spine layer for transport. Project proponents stated that “High-speed transportation, utilities, digital infrastructure and logistics will be seamlessly integrated in dedicated spaces running in an invisible layer along The Line”. The high-speed transit is being designed to reach people anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. Alternately, people could walk to conveniences within five minutes. Artificial intelligence will have a critical role in the city. ‘The Line’ would be powered by 100 percent clean energy, rendering the city pollution-free, healthy, and sustainable. The city would be run totally on smart city technologies. Robots will play a key role in the areas of security, logistics, home delivery, and provision of care.

It is expected that the city infrastructure would cost between US $100 to 200 billion (INR 7.5 to 15 lakh crore). Investments are planned to be drawn from the US $500 billion allocated for NEOM, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is the Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, and local and global investors over 10 years. Construction on the project’s first phase has already begun. NEOM Bay, some hotel complexes, and luxurious apartments have been completed. In 2019, the NEOM Bay Airport was inaugurated. A huge complex of palaces for the Saudi king, prince, and royal family members has also been started.

NEOM and ‘The Line’ are projects with a larger objective. As the world moves towards a non-oil-based future, Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer of oil, finds its economy threatened unless it finds alternate sources of wealth creation. Global trade and tourism would be the key areas for Saudi’s new economy. NEOM, backed by ‘The Line’ as the first fully automated city, could emerge as the leading global destination. In this, there is commonality between Saudi Arabia and the other gulf countries. Bahrain (Economic Vision 2030), Oman (Vision 2040), Qatar (National Vision 2030), UAE (Vision 2021) and Saudi Arabia (Vision 2030) are all seeking to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil.

Information on many areas in regard to ‘The Line’ are scarce. However, based on the material available, a broad assessment is possible. Firstly, the history of megaprojects in Saudi Arabia has not been happy. “The Saudi landscape is already dotted with failed or abandoned megaprojects”. Furthermore, such projects do not always turn out the way they are planned. Adverse turns in the global economy, cost overruns, and reduced financial returns on investment are some of the most common failings. Even if the above cited observations are dismissed as speculation, the fact is that this urban endeavour incorporates certain technologies that do not exist. Robot maids, dinosaur robots, and flying cars are still in the making. Neither are high-speed transits today capable of speeds of 512 kilometre per hour, which the city would require for end-to-end travel in 20 minutes.

Furthermore, irrespective of whatever kind of city one builds, a city’s foundational philosophy ought to remain the same. The quality of a city rests on its economy, its environment, and its equity. A city that overstates one to the detriment of the others imbalances itself and over time becomes unsustainable. The project proponents have talked profusely about the economic, technological, and environmental angles, but nothing is known about how equitable the city would be and who could afford to live there.

NEOM and The Line, as cited earlier, would be governed by a set of laws different from Saudi Arabia. But given the nature of the Saudi polity, where some of the governance practices are among the most regressive, uncomfortable incongruities for residents may surface. Since the city is looking for people to move in from the rest of the world, such concerns may not enthuse populations to move in. Saudi Arabia is not very kind to dissent; hence, very few voices of disagreement from inside the country have emanated. Some have mildly sought to remind the Saudi administration that there is no point spending billions of dollars on a totally new venture when the already existing Saudi cities were in a state of disrepair and needed fixing.

The Saudi administration highlights its environmental concerns and is planning to build a totally eco-friendly city. As the Crown Prince said, “Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents?” However, this does not seem to be practiced on the ground. The city’s construction is cutting “through its surroundings, forcing its way through tough terrain rather than embracing natural features such as the coast line.”

The Saudi administration also faces criticism on account of the attempt to evict the 20,000-strong Howeitat tribe from its centuries-old homeland that falls within the territory of NEOM. The tribe is resisting eviction. When leaders of the tribe protested, several from the leadership found themselves behind bars. The most vocal critic of them all, Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, lost his life. The negative publicity was sought to be countered through a public relations exercise, crafted by an American PR company. However, much of the disquiet around the project remains.

Why Should You Consider Solar Panels?

Why Should You Consider Solar Panels?

Solar Panels are an effective and low-maintenance way to generate your own renewable energy. Here’s why you should consider installing them on your roof!

Why Should You Consider Solar Panels?

With energy prices rising to pre-pandemic levels, many of us have noticed that our energy bills have begun to rise in recent weeks. And if you’ve been with the same energy supplier for a long time, you’re likely on a standard variable tariff. Which means that if your energy costs haven’t increased in recent weeks, they’re likely to in the near future.

Now’s the perfect time to consider investing in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Today’s investment could result in decades of savings, add value to your home, and help you to drastically reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Solar power is on the rise in the MENA region, with investment reaching $1 trillion in the 2019-23 period in the region. Here we’ll look at some of the reasons why you should consider installing them on your roof.

Can solar panels really save me money?

Absolutely! Switch-Plan estimates that by installing solar panels, you can save anywhere from £85-£200 per year GBP with a full solar array. Depending on the size of your solar array and the daylight hours in your region, your solar array could become profitable in less than 10 years. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you may be able to install your own solar panels, drastically reducing your costs.

As the solar market in the area grows, and becomes more competitive, households have more options than ever.

Don’t solar panels only work on sunny days?

The MENA region is known for its hot and sunny climate. But solar panels still work on cloudy, rainy and overcast days. As long as the sun shines in the sky, your PV solar panels will generate energy for your home.

Want to generate energy through the night as well? Solar arrays can be combined with domestic wind turbines to create hybrid systems that generate energy through the day and night.

Would you like your energy company to pay you?

Around 50% of the energy generated by your solar panels throughout the day is fed back into the grid. The good news is that your energy companies can pay you for this via Feed in Tariffs. These pay a flat rate per kWh of energy generated which can further offset the cost of the grid energy you use.

You’ve paid your energy company enough over the years. Isn’t it time they started paying you?

Combine energy tariffs with Feed In Tariffs to optimise savings

It’s important to note that you don’t have to use the same company for your energy tariff and your Feed in Tariff. By comparing energy plans and FiTs from different companies, you can optimise your savings, offsetting the cost of your installation and helping it to become profitable faster. All while helping to reduce the MENA region’s reliance on fossil fuels and pave the way for a renewable future.

Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world

Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world

GIS has a role everywhere, whether it is an understanding change in crop patterns, assessing water availability, or implementing climate models. Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world.

Thus wrote Pushpendra Johari in the Financial Express. But shouldn’t we need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the SDGs In any case and without further ado, here is the story.

Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world

By Pushpendra Johari

The application of geospatial technologies for sustainable development is emerging fast. (The image above is by NITI Aayog)

We all are aware of the earth’s constantly changing landscape. Humans are selfishly moving ahead to grow themselves at the cost of nature, causing overpopulation, deforestation, rapid urbanisation, and industrialization. These activities have been exhausting our natural resources and changing climate by pushing pollutants into the environment. Sadly, climate change is happening faster than we can even imagine. It’s making the earth more vulnerable to disasters and affecting our very existence. It is time we think about building a sustainable world to cater to these changing geological dynamics.

Building a sustainable world entails effective planning that every human action should ascertain its impact on the environment before any implementation. Policies should drive this thinking. Only if we take care of our planet, the planet will take care of us.

Environmental issues are spatial in nature that drive “what” might happen, “where”, “when”, and “how much”. So, we need to align our thinking to these criteria and do our planning considering them. This is where technologies like ‘’geospatial’’ come to our rescue. Geospatial technologies provide us tools to capture information about any location on the earth’s surface, whether historical, real-time, geological, or climate-related.

The application of geospatial technologies for sustainable development is emerging fast. It is helping us in getting solutions to the issues revolving around climate change, natural calamities, food security, and human habitation.

Tracing “where” element for food security and addressing climate induced changes

Climate change is impacting the entire food system by affecting its availability, accessibility, quality, and utilization. It’s influencing the weather patterns and changing the suitability of the crops that are currently grown in certain areas, impacting the crop yields because of hydro-meteorological events, and causing soil erosion.

So, how do we tackle such issues? Here, the “where” element is of high significance. GIS enables comprehensive assessment and monitoring of environmental conditions related to sustainable agriculture development and food security.

GIS helps answer some of the toughest agri-related questions such as developing smart agri systems for crop diversification/shifting, development of an application for climate-resilient seeds, irrigation planning, groundwater storage, fertilizers and pesticides based on climatic conditions, yield forecasting, crop acreage, mapping crop vulnerability, etc.,

Availability of water has a strong bearing on food security. Climate projections reveal that water is going to be scarce in the future. So, it is becoming important to understand water availability to address food security issues. For instance, to understand the crop shifts, GIS-based water availability modelling is applied to evaluate the current situation of a crop and where it can be grown in the future.

GIS has a role everywhere, whether it is an understanding change in crop patterns, assessing water availability, or implementing climate models. It is required to ascertain everything on the surface of the earth.

Assessing natural disasters

As a result of climate change, the rainfall patterns have changed from longer spans of milder rains to very short span of high-intensity rainfall, rising temperature on land and ocean, and melting glaciers. All this is driving the severity of floods, cyclones, droughts, and potential of sea-level rise. The severity and frequency of flood and cyclone events in India have increased in recent years. For instance, the recurring flood like conditions in Mumbai every year, Hyderabad floods (October 2020), Assam Floods (July 2020), Cyclone Amphan (May 2020), Cyclone Fani (May 2019), Chennai Floods (December 2015), and J&K Flood (March 2015).

Since the rainfall pattern has changed, mechanisms needs to be developed to store excessive water effectively for future. Using GIS, we can identify locations to harvest the excessive rain/flood water and create ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.

Geospatial technology is helping create flood forecasting models and early warning systems. A flood forecasting system is an automated software that monitors real-time rainfall and water levels and combines it with forecasted rainfall to generate flood extents and depths to identify potential risk areas.

Additionally, cyclone is another hazard experienced by our country. GIS based scientific cyclone models can estimate cyclone events related parameters such as from where they originated, speed of the wind, surge height, likely landfall points and areas at risk. Thus, helping enhance the Government’s preparedness, recovery and response to the events, safeguarding human life and infrastructure.

Building resilient infrastructure

Estimates reveal that by 2050, 7 out of 10 people across the globe will be living in urban areas. To manage rising urbanization, it is essential to design and implement programs based on understanding the frequency and magnitude of climate events and how they are likely to change in the future. For instance, the extremely severe cyclonic storm ‘FANI’ in 2019 caused massive infrastructural damage in Odisha. It took nearly 40 days to restore power.

Disaster mitigation, prevention, preparedness, and emergency response can be planned with a prior risk assessment. But how do we assess these risks? The primary information is to know where our infrastructure elements are and relate their key characteristics to the potential hazard intensities. GIS help us to build detailed repository of all infrastructure elements along with key attributes. Understanding of the hazard intensities developed using GIS based techniques when applied to the infrastructure attributes helps to understand their risk better and plan for actions that can reduce those risks.

Mapping renewable energy

As human civilisation is growing, our energy needs are also growing at a phenomenal pace. With excessive energy consumption, it’s time we switch to renewable energy and use what’s naturally available to us in the form of sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, biomass, and thermal energy. But where do we find these resources in abundance? How do we harness that resource in a specific area? GIS technology helps in making this decision quicker and simpler. It aids policymakers and decision-makers in identifying the right location for renewable energy based power generation.

For instance, to establish a renewable energy plant in any area, GIS techniques can derive insights on the wind and solar potential, distance from cities, and socio-economic impact. This analysis shares a clear picture of which location would be ideal for implementing a renewable energy power plant. For resilient consumption, GIS plays an effective role by determining where to focus and how to manage these resources. Geospatial technology showcases the potential for sustainable energy resources.

Deregulating use of geospatial data – What the future holds

With so many technological interventions in store for building a better and sustainable future, the recent policy on deregulation of geospatial data has unlocked socio-economic opportunities necessary for sustainable development. The new policy will not only spur innovation but open several avenues for sustainable developmental initiatives. The changes in the deregulation will help in generation of high-resolution data sets like digital terrain models, bathymetry, soil maps, street view maps etc. that will play a very critical role in taking this sustainable development charter forward.

A highly accurate digital data infrastructure will provide a much-needed thrust in terms of availability and enhancement of high-resolution location data for the country, enabling several Indian companies to create world-class maps and mapping technologies.

In addition, the high-quality location data will help improve the accuracy of real-time measures to safeguard the public from disasters and climate change crisis. This is likely to accelerate scientific research and innovative practices to plan better disaster assessment and mitigation strategies.

This open access to geospatial data will ensure informed decision-making and help accomplish Sustainable Development Goals by boosting environment informed development of resilient infrastructure, public sector services, and food security in the country.

(The author is Senior VP – Sustainability at RMSI. Views expressed are personal.)

How to build sustainable cities

How to build sustainable cities

Construction Kenya’s INSIGHTS advises as to how to build sustainable cities for the good of all. Still, in an era of rapid urbanisation, we witness increasing demand for additional housing, infrastructure, transport and green spaces. We can only agree on how all around the world thinkers can help tackle these challenges.

How to build sustainable cities

More than 66% of humanity projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

By Jane Mwangasha

In the next thirty years, more than two thirds of humanity is projected to live in urban areas with most of the urban population growth expected to happen in lower income nations.

With that in mind, there is an urgent need for planners to ensure that urban areas are inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient enough to meet the anticipated population growth.

But what makes a city liveable? While there is no single magical bullet, cities can make themselves more habitable by adopting a range of social and technological measures.

Here are 10 ways to build more sustainable cities:

1. Clean energy

Although most cities can generate clean energy, their high level of power consumption means the metropolises are unlikely to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production. 

However, cities can lower their carbon footprints by, among other things, converting sunshine into electricity; using timber from local forests to produce low-carbon energy for heating and electricity generation; and using solar to heat buildings and water.

Converting waste into energy is also a great step towards improving a city. The Indonesian city of Sodong, for example, has implemented an air-filled waste disposal system that uses pipes to suck trash from homes into processing centres that automatically sort the material to recycle and turn it into renewable energy.

London Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, uses “springy” tiles to harness the kinetic energy in foot traffic and convert it into electricity.

Such innovations can help cities to become more sustainable.

2. Efficient buildings

Buildings consume most of a city’s energy intake while emitting large quantities of carbon. Cities should encourage the design and construction of efficient buildings – which are often more cost-effective and functional compared to installation of costly devices for clean energy production.

Creating efficient buildings involves the insulation of walls, windows, and roofs, and operating energy-efficient lighting and heating systems.

Passive House in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great example of energy efficient building. The ultra-low energy house is so highly insulated that it requires no heating or cooling.

Singapore and New York have shown the world how small initiatives such as painting roofs white and planting trees can reduce city temperatures by up to 2°C – thereby cutting a city’s energy consumption.

In Scandinavian and eastern European countries, hot water for heating is distributed to buildings through insulated pipes underneath the streets. The water is heated using energy generated from extremely efficient power stations that generate both heat and electricity.

3. Efficient transportation

While vehicles, trains and aeroplanes facilitate the smooth running of a city, the transport systems can cause traffic congestion, poor air quality and gas emissions. 

To minimise the number of cars on the road, some cities have formulated ideas that can be adopted in other parts of the world.

The Scottish city of Edinburgh, for example, has developed one of the largest car-sharing clubs in the UK, which allows members to use cars only when they need to.

Singapore and London have designed high-quality bus and underground rail systems, as well as low-emission areas where only electric vehicles are permitted.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, cycle commuting is highly encouraged with cyclists given priority at traffic lights throughout the city.

4. Urban agriculture

The food we eat comes with a carbon footprint, which is worse if the produce travels hundreds of miles to reach us. It is therefore a great idea to encourage urban farming to ensure local sourcing of foodstuffs.

Urban farmers such as US-based Aero Farms are already embracing vertical farming solutions to produce food in cities. Vertical farming produces crops on stacked layers, often on skyscrapers, instead of on a single layer in either an open field or a greenhouse.

Advances in lighting and automation, as well as other factors such as reduced use of pesticides, enable vertical farmers to make higher profits than traditional farmers.

5. Sharing spaces

City residents around the world are reducing the carbon footprint of consumption through sharing of resources. It is increasingly common to find inhabitants engaging in carpooling, lodging rental and shared ownership of facilities such as gyms and lounges.

6. Design for social integration

Once considered the world’s most dangerous city, Colombian city of Medellin has transformed itself by focusing on architecture and design.

The city has adopted the use of shared spaces and improved public transport to blur economic boundaries and create a sense of connection among its residents.

7. Mobility on demand

Smartphone-assisted traffic management and car routing can reduce time and fuel wasted trying to navigate through congested cities.

Likewise, self-driving vehicles and carpooling can increase efficiency by maximising use of vehicles and reducing the need for space to park idle cars.

8. Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions to urban problems can help cities to tackle climate change while reducing disaster risks.

New York City’s greened rooftops and streets that can better manage storm water runoff and improve urban climate are a great example of natured-based solutions.

Another great example is China’s introduction of the concept of ‘sponge cities’, cities with open spaces that can soak up floodwater and prevent disaster in ecologically friendly ways.

9. Pocket parks

In densely populated cities such as San Francisco, local authorities have put in place small green spaces that help to increase green cover while providing recreation space to residents.

Most pocket parks re-use spaces that previously served other purposes — for example, rehabilitated street parking spaces or a public right-of-way that was earlier used for transportation.

10. Pervious concrete

Pervious concrete is a mixture of cement, coarse aggregate, water and admixture, with little or no fine aggregates. It is designed to allow water to penetrate the asphalt for absorption by the earth. This can help cities to tackle flash floods and worsening quality of water in river courses and so on.

Hailed as one of the most promising sustainable material today, pervious concrete has outstanding potential to counteract these adverse impacts while providing necessary structural integrity, thus supporting continued urbanization.

Time To Stop Relying On Outdated Building Codes

Time To Stop Relying On Outdated Building Codes

CleanTechnica written up by Carolyn Fortuna provides an overview of the specific situation of the struggle against climate change in the developed world via building better-adapted codes. So is it time to stop relying on Outdated Building Codes?
Instead of adopting the same process in the MENA region, it was decided to opt for solar/renewable Building Codes instead, quickly labelled Green Buildings. These are at this conjecture, a popular demand-side support scheme by the industry.
Green buildings contribute to sustainable construction and environment and benefit building owners and users with increased comfort, healthier indoor environment quality, and enhanced durability and fewer maintenance costs.
The impact of such green building codes on solar thermal technology is relatively small. And despite that, several countries in the MENA region have shown keen interest in adopting a unified green building code.
So, what to do?

It’s Time To Stop Relying On Outdated Building Codes

Building codes and referenced standards need to be updated to replace historical weather data with future-focused climate data.

Outdated building codes are a real problem. Today’s changing global weather and other unexpected events such as high winds, flooding, wildfires, and heatwaves makes it imperative for international collaboration to design updated, practical, and appropriate codes. Building codes rely on climate data, and that data is generally updated on a 10-year cycle. The requirements related to structural/ atmospheric loads for wind and snow/ ice, energy use/heat stress, flooding, and wildfire/ bushfire protection have changed tremendously in the last 10 years due to the climate crisis.

It’s time for countries around the world to step up and assess the way they review building codes.

As the weather becomes more severe from year to year, the underlying historical data simply does not accurately reflect the risk to buildings as a result of these extreme weather-related events. The building codes in some countries, particularly in Europe and the US, do reference design standards and dictate the energy performance and structural standards that impact wind loads and snow/ice loads. The issue is that the underlying data is updated on an “as needed” basis, which can exceed the 10 year average.

So a new struggle has emerged in the building industry. Relying on historical climate and weather data no longer provides the same level of safety and resilience for future extreme weather events as they have in past years and decades.

The Global Resiliency Dialogue

Building code developers/ researchers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US have launched the Global Resiliency Dialogue as a joint initiative to inform the development of building codes that draw on both building science and climate science. Their goal is to improve the resilience of buildings and communities to intensifying risks from weather-related natural hazards.

The following “Findings on Changing Risk and Building Codes” statement outlines the work by the members of the Global Resiliency Dialogue, including:

  • Identifying strategies for the identification of future risks and the development of building code solutions that support adaptation to those risks
  • Cooperating on the development of international building resilience guidelines and further exploration of the relationship with land use planning instruments that help determine the location of buildings
  • Supporting research initiatives to better understand climate science, to assist in aligning expectations for building durability and resilience with the projection of future hazards
  • Developing and deploying messages and resources that enhance understanding of building codes, support a common understanding of risk and communicate the importance of up-to-date building codes
  • Advancing risk and impact analysis to recognize the multiple economic and social benefits provided by resilience investments and the desirability of alternative approaches that fully capture the benefits and costs provided by the building codes

The primary function of building codes universally is to protect life/human safety. Often this requires structural durability, resistance to fire, adequate means of egress, and other related functions to ensure that lives are protected. However, in discussions of natural hazard mitigation and community resilience, particularly as risks continue to become more severe and impact different geographic locations, the question of greater levels of property protection and bounce back recovery of function following an event is increasingly debated by key decision makers.

Survey findings from the Global Resiliency Dialogue describe the status of international building codes today. Currently, none of the building codes in use in the surveyed countries addresses future climate risk – all are focused on addressing risk based on past weather experiences and extreme events. However, — and this is a really good thing — discussions are underway about how to include future-focused risk in outdated building codes. As is to be expected, some countries are farther along than others.

Integrating Climate Data & Building Codes

Most building code development and research organizations rely on outside organizations with expertise in natural environmental sciences to develop the climactic and hazard maps that are included in the codes. The climate data used to inform provisions of building codes is generally not limited to the building safety industry and has the potential to impact other sectors of society. That’s important, particularly because the key science agencies are often national bodies that service the diverse needs of state, provincial, tribal/indigenous, and local jurisdictions.

Most building codes that address extreme events do so as part of the design standard and based on the probability of the occurrence of the specific event, with the design requirements changing based on the potential severity of the event, location, or the importance of the building. Design events are frequently measured in probabilities, with the ratios varying greatly by country with no apparent international consistency. In some cases, certain extreme weather occurrences have been determined as difficult to address through building codes due to either the localization of an event or the severity of the natural forces involved. Two such examples are hailstorms and storm surge impacting coastal regions.

As countries consider modeling scenarios to incorporate future climate-related risk in building codes, one option under wide consideration are Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) – scenarios that consider the emissions and concentrations of the full suite of greenhouse gases, aerosols, and other chemically active gases, along with land use by the year 2100, based on the radiative forcing limit reached on earth before emissions begin to decline. If climate modeling is used, building codes and referenced standards will need to be updated with future-focused climate data. In most countries, this type of change will follow the standard code revision process.

Assuming that code provisions can be adjusted to address future climate risk assessments, countries will need to have a process in place to ensure that the changes are not only adequate but equally suitable and proportionate in scope. This work will fall primarily to the building code development and research organizations in each country, where they utilize their own internal processes. Some entities may develop new standards to assist with regulatory impact analysis.

In the US, a National Climate Assessment is conducted every 4 years by the US Global Change Research Program, a joint effort of 13 federal agencies. To date, the assessment has only  focused on the built environment at a relatively high level. As the fifth assessment gets underway, there may be increased focus on the needs of the design and construction industry, which may result in a deeper dive into outdated building codes.

Final Thoughts About Outdated Building Codes

A whole bunch of job types are involved with the design and implementation of building codes:

  • Academia
  • Architects
  • Building owners/managers
  • Building safety professionals & industry associations
  • Conformity assessment bodies, such as product evaluation services
  • Consumers or consumer advocacy groups
  • Contractors
  • Developers
  • Energy efficiency advocates
  • Engineers
  • Fire safety professionals
  • Government entities: federal/national, state, provincial, tribal, territorial, local
  • Home builders
  • Insurance industry representatives
  • Manufacturers of building products
  • Professional societies
  • Plumbing professionals & industry associations
  • Subcontractors
  • Subject matter experts
  • Supply chain/distributors

As Forbes notes, building codes must keep pace with technology advances in order to help tap much larger potential energy savings and cost reductions. By adapting to reflect the growing trend of fuel-switching and electrification to enable zero-emissions technologies like efficient electric heat pumps and electric vehicles, policymakers can cut consumer costs and harmful pollution while supporting the transition to a clean economy.

It’s Time To Stop Relying On Outdated Building Codes
Carolyn Fortuna