New London Architecture

London facing ‘enormous challenge’ to stay resilient

Monday 11 October 2021

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David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

London leads the way in terms of how it is working towards net zero targets but should get better about tree planting and installing SUDs across the capital if it is to become a more resilient city in the face of climate change.

Those were some of the views to emerge from the launch of Resilient London – NLA’s report on the issues facing the capital and ideas for how it can counteract worrying trends in things like temperature rises and flooding.

Report author Hattie Hartment said that in the world cities league table, London is ‘definitely leading the way’, even if the challenge is ‘really enormous’, but the panel pointed to other cities such as Rotterdam, New York, Hammerby, Stockholm and Singapore which are demonstrating key measures to stay resilient with research and real green infrastructure projects. 

But London should enforce more widespread usage of SUDs, said Hartman. ’We really need to roll out SUDs across the capital’, she said.  Resilience is an urgent matter for London, she said, with hotter, drier summers and summer temperatures expected to resemble those of Barcelona by 2050. ‘The focus of industry discourse and action remains squarely on net zero’, Hartman added. ‘In other words, mitigation, rather than adaptation. Resilience is really trailing behind.’

Hartman relayed how there are clear signs in the capital city of climate change having effect, not least in surface water flooding closing tube stations and extreme weather events elsewhere. ‘The threshold for tarmac melting is 30 to 33 degrees’, she said. ‘The City is already experiencing this, so they are trialling different road and pavement materials. This is happening now.’

Measurement is important in terms of resilience, but is hard to do, said Terri Mills of Waterman Group. ‘Or another way of putting it is that we haven’t developed a good way of measuring it. I think the report highlights this really well.’

Buildings are overheating, too, said Ashley Bateson of Hoare Lea, mainly as a result of different approaches to design in modern buildings, compared to traditional ones, but also because it is not a regulatory requirement. ‘There’s been changes in not only the building form and proportions of glazing but also thermal mass’, he said. ‘So buildings are more lightweight and are fluctuating in temperature.’

Perhaps, said Robert Evans, looking back over the development of Argent’s King’s Cross project, we need to put more emphasis on tree planting and shading as we consider how serious the climate change agenda is.

Flood defences are also key, said Thames Estuary 2100 project director at Environment Agency, Abby Crisostomo, with sea level rises expected to affect 1.4 million people in London at risk. A 2012 plan looked at future climate scenarios on flood risk management, with the Thames Estuary including nine barriers, 300kms of walls and embankments protecting some £321bn of property. But an upgraded or new Thames Barrier is required, along with an extra metre to flood walls across the city, so one answer might be to work collaboratively to provide multi-functional riversides that not only protect us but also provide green and open spaces, increased biodiversity, and help with cooling and drainage.

Watch the webinar here
Read the full Resilient London report
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

Net Zero


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Resilient London: confronting climate change - report launch


Resilient London: confronting climate change - report launch

Launching the NLA research paper Resilient London: confronting climate change, this webinar looks ahead at COP26 to disc...

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