Risk of Climate Change Implications for Architects and Engineers Research Paper

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Risks of Climate Change


Climate Change Impacts on Engineering Infrastructure

Key Impacts on Water and Resources

Risk Management Analysis Coping Methods Possibility And Probability


Recommendations And Guidelines For The Vulnerability Of Climate

Change Impacts Using Risk Management Methods And Analysis


This work examines climate change in relation to impacts upon infrastructure, utilities, and water in relation to the affects from projected sea level rise, flooding, and other related impacts expected to result from climate change. This work also reviews models used for risk assessment and analysis and examines their usefulness and the associated limitations with these models. Knowledge and expertise is growing in the risk-assessment and analysis field of study and reliable models are being developed although the primary effective and appropriate use for the majority of these models is on regional or local scale.



The objective of this work is to examine the architectural and engineering identification of the vulnerability of climate change risks in relation to engineering design and infrastructure planning. This work will apply risk management methods in this area.


Adaptation is the word that Australia has applied to the coming problems and complications associated with climate change and building structures in terms of architecture and engineering design in its National Climate Change and Adaptation Framework report. While the debate continues as to whether climate change is in reality occurring, the change in the climate, continues and at a rate much faster than scientists previously believed the change would proceed according to their initial reports. A September 10th report on ABC News website this year related that during the period between September 3 through September 9-69,000 square miles of artic ice disappeared, roughly the size of the Sunshine State..." Or the state of Florida in the Southern United States. The report states that the melting is at an unprecedented rate and that "...ice researchers worry that the Artic is on track to be completely ice-free much earlier than pervious research and climate models have suggested." (Sandell, 2007) Weather patterns, according to Robert Correll, scientist and chair for the Artic Climate Impact Assessment, are shifting and will continue to shift "in ways that we are just beginning to understand." (Sandell, 2007) The risks because of the rising sea levels resulting from melting in the artic are being forecast in many places of the world. According to an ABC News report September 9th of this year, the Jakobshavn glacier and ice fjord at Ilulissat are reported by scientists to be "pouring out some 20 million tons of frozen water into the ocean every day." (Blakemore, 2007) A recent Science and Technology report published by the University of Maryland states that: "A first of its kind study by the University of Maryland, Tufts and Boston Universities demonstrates that in coming decades, sea level rise, changes in rainfall and other effects of climate change will have major, costly impacts on infrastructure systems of cities around the world." (University of Maryland, 2005)


There will be substantial impact upon structural engineering and architectural designs including homes, businesses, bridges, dam, and other structures worldwide due to climate change. Australia's "National Climate Change Adaptation Framework" states specifically that: "Infrastructure such as buildings, roads, bridges, railways and ports are designed for a life of 20-50 years. Dams can be designed for a 100 years life. Planning decisions for development and the replacement or refurbishment of long-lived infrastructure need to take account of the different climate in the future including higher temperatures and changes to precipitation, water tables and humidity." (nd) The exposure of people and infrastructure to affects of climate change are likely to increase, due to the increase in urbanization in areas along the coast and urban expansion in regional areas. (National Climate Change Adaptation Framework, nd; paraphrased) Variables that have been identified important for consideration in relation to climate change include: (1) extreme maximum temperature and length of hot spells; (2) annual rainfall; (3) extreme daily rainfall, influencing flood levels; (4) available moisture, which is influenced by changes to evaporation rates and levels of rainfall; (5) average relative humidity; (6) variation in wet and dry spells, affecting water tables and surface and subsoil inundation cycles; (7) intensity of extreme winds; (8) fire-weather frequency and intensity; (9) solar radiation levels and exposure; and (10) sea-level rise. (Climate Change and Infrastructure: Planning Ahead, 2005) The following chart lists the infrastructure type and the climate change impacts expected to affect each of the infrastructures listed.

Climate Change Impacts

Source: Climate Change and Infrastructure: Planning Ahead (2005)

Specific high risks associated with the 'high' climate change scenario for the year 2030 include the following risks and to the sectors as listed in the following figure.

Sector and High Risks in Climate Change


High Risks

Water Storm water drainage and flooding damage

Bushfire damage to catchments and storage

Power Increase in demand-pressure shortages

Substation flooding

Telecommunications Flooding of exchanges, access holes and underground pits

Transport Bridge degradation

Storm impacts on ports and coastal infrastructure

Buildings Degradation and failure of foundations due to changes in soil moisture

Increased storm and flood damage

Coastal storm surges and flooding

Increased bushfire damage

Source: Climate Change and Infrastructure: Planning Ahead (2005)

According to the work entitled: "Climate Change and Infrastructure: Planning Ahead" the following will be the threats to the sectors listed:


Climate change is likely to result in drier conditions for most regions. However, extreme rainfall events are likely to increase in frequency and intensity.

An increasing frequency of extreme daily rainfall events would affect the capacity and maintenance of storm water, drainage and sewer infrastructure. Significant damage costs and environmental spills are likely if these water systems are unable to cope with major downpours.

Increased risk of major bushfires in the catchments of dams and reservoirs will threaten water quality and availability.

Due to drier conditions, increased ground movement and changes in groundwater could accelerate degradation of materials and structural integrity of water supply, sewer and stormwater pipelines.

Lower rainfall is likely to lead to water shortages, exacerbated by higher temperatures and increased demand from a growing population.


Increased frequency and intensity of extreme storm events may damage electricity transmission infrastructure and service. Increased wind and lightning could also damage transmission lines and structures. Extreme rainfall events could flood power substations. More storm activity would increase the cost of power and infrastructure maintenance and lead to more, and longer, blackouts and disruption of services.

Coastal and offshore gas, oil and electricity infrastructure is at risk of significant damage and increased shut-down periods from increases in storm surge, wind, flooding and wave events. Sea level rise would worsen these impacts.

Increased ground movement and changes in groundwater are likely to accelerate degradation of power generation and refinery plant foundations, as well as of transmission lines, gas and oil pipelines.

Extreme heatwave events are likely to increase in frequency, generating an increase in the peak demand for electricity for air conditioning.

The anticipated decrease in annual rainfall may reduce the power supply capacity of hydroelectric dams and the water supply necessary for cooling of coal-fired power stations for power generation.


Increased frequency and intensity of extreme wind, lightning and bushfires may cause significant damage to above-ground transmission lines and associated infrastructure.

Downpours will affect access holes, pits and other underground telecommunications facilities.

Increased storm activity may result in a significant rise in the cost of telecommunications supply and infrastructure maintenance associated with increased frequency and length of network outages and disruption of communication services.


Increased frequency and severity of extreme rainfall events may cause significant flood damage to road, rail, bridge, airport, port and, especially, tunnel infrastructure. Rail, bridges, airports and ports are susceptible to extreme winds. Ports and coastal infrastructure are particularly at risk from storm surges; sea level rise will add to the problem.

A rise in the frequency of lightning strikes would affect rail operations. The projected increase in storm activity may increase the cost of transport infrastructure maintenance and replacement.

Increased ground movement and changes in groundwater would accelerate degradation of materials, structures and foundations of transport infrastructure. The result would be reduction in life expectancy, increased maintenance costs and potential structural failure during extreme events.

Increased temperature and solar radiation could reduce the life of asphalt on road surfaces and airport tarmacs. Higher temperatures may stress steel in bridges and rail tracks through expansion and increased movement.

Sea level rise may affect tunnels close to the coast through increased tidal and salt gradients, ground water pressure and corrosion of materials.


Buildings will be affected by increased frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall, wind and lightning. Coastal buildings and facilities will be particularly at risk from storm surges exacerbated by higher sea levels. The predicted increase in storm activity could raise the cost…[continue]

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