When storm winds howl and rivers flood, buildings take the brunt.
And as climate change makes all kinds of extreme weather more frequent and more destructive, scientists at the National Research Council are trying to figure out how to ensure Canada’s built environment is ready.
“We’re going to see change in the way we’re designing new buildings to help prevent the spread of wildfire, prevent the damage from flooding,” said Marianne Armstrong, who manages the council’s research effort.
“We want to create a culture of thinking about resiliency.”
The council is coming to the end of a five-year research program that has considered how changing weather and the new norms it brings will affect stresses on buildings, roads, wastewater, transit, bridges and other infrastructure.
More than 100 researchers have been working on the project, which has had a budget of $42.5 million. They include materials experts, ocean scientists and aerospace and transport engineers.
Another 100 organizations, such as universities, provinces and municipalities, have been involved.
Canada’s building codes are modernized every five years. The next update is due this year and is likely to see the first changes meant to address the country’s new climate reality.
New standards coming
“Climate change, the fact that we now see a rapid change of that environment, is a new focus for us,” said Frank Lohmann, the research council’s manager of code development.
The new code will upgrade building requirements for wind resistance and how buildings bear snow loads. There will be new rules for rainwater collection. Automatic backflow systems will be compulsory to reduce flooding risk.
New standards related to climate change are also on the way for windows, exterior insulation, fire tests, air barriers and asphalt shingles.
The coming changes are just the start, Lohmann said.
“The major action will come in 2025.”