The Effect of Our Changing Climate on Building Design | Spilman Thomas & Battle,

Over the past couple decades, building codes have responded to disasters, rather than averting them. Resilience is now an essential design element needed to withstand our changing climate.

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changin’.” Intensified and more frequent hurricanes on the East and Gulf Coasts, more devastating wildfires on the West Coast and more frequent, powerful tornados in the heartland. Mother Nature has been particularly cruel to the United States since the new millennium. Putting aside the politics involved with climate change, the bare facts from the past 20 years reveal that we have seen more frequent category 5 hurricanes, F5 tornados, 100-year floods, and devastating wildfires. As with most devastating events ― both manmade or otherwise ― we, as a society, have to learn from past experience and improve our society both culturally and physically in the world we inhabit. This means building codes will continue to evolve, the standard of care for design professionals will change, and the historical data used by various government entities for permitting, zoning, and city planning will have to take into account the changing climate as climate change advances.

How does the legal system play a role in climate change? As with all changes in our society, from women’s emancipation to the civil rights movement and the development of the information age, our legal system will be the battleground and place of adaption as our climate changes. The evolving building codes and standards of care for design professionals will be directly affected and indeed are already feeling the effects of climate change.

We are already seeing considerations associated with climate change make their way into the court system. While the following cases do not directly implicate design professionals, they do provide a glimpse into how the courts are recognizing climate change as a legitimate phenomenon that merits consideration.

Climate Change in the Courts and Legislation

The courts have yet to take up the issue of climate change directly as an effect on the standard of care that applies to design professionals, but the following cases provide a glimpse into various decisions by the judiciary in which climate change was an issue in the case.

In Cole v. Collier, inmates in a Texas state prison brought a class action suit seeking relief from heat-related conditions in the prison that resulted in preventable health issues and deaths. Cole v. Collier, No. 4:14-cv-1698, 2017 WL 3049540, (S.D. Tex. July 19, 2017). The prison’s housing area was not air-conditioned, so the prison implemented several measures intended to help with the heat during the summer months. This included providing ice water, cool-down showers, fans, a relaxed dress code, open windows, and increased access to other areas with air conditioning. Id….

Read MoreThe Effect of Our Changing Climate on Building Design | Spilman Thomas & Battle,

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x