New London Architecture

Review of NLA publication “Resilient London, Confronting Climate Change”

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Read the full Resilient London support

Tim den Dekker

Associate
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

“Resilient London, Confronting Climate Change” is a highly readable stocktake of the fundamentals underlying a climate resilient London. 
 
Four reasons why I think this document is useful:
 
First, the document contains plenty of ingredients for it to be the basis of a climate resilient design manual for London. 
 
Among the rich tapestry of case studies are projects like Hawkins\Brown’s and Mae’s Agar Grove Estate redevelopment. The designs are both adaptive (MVHR systems can be retrofitted in future to provide cooling, powered by on-site PV arrays) and diverse (passive cooling provided by dual-aspect cross-ventilation provides built-in redundancy) - ticking at least two of the five boxes in Judith Rodin’s The Resilience Dividend (resilient systems should be aware, integrated, diverse, self-regulating, and adaptive). Such a new design manual could draw inspiration from the clear design guidance set out in Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios / Enabel’s Manifesto for Climate Responsive Design. Ultimately it should extend beyond climate resilience: to resilience in health, public safety and security, economic, energy and water, and transport, so it can help us design London in a way that, for example, avoids a repeat of the 2011 London Riots.
 
Second, “Resilient London” introduces the promising design approach of adaptive pathways, used in the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan. 
 
Using adaptive pathways, designers can develop short-term actions that do not exclude additional long-term actions needed in the (uncertain) future if expectations are not borne out, whilst also prioritising societal benefits. Adaptive pathways have been demonstrated at the large scale (the Thames) but could probably also be applied to masterplans and buildings. I’m curious to hear what role adaptive pathways might play in the ambitious RightSizer MMC strategy at Meridien Water by Assael Architecture.
 
Third, the document valuably points out important hurdles to London’s climate resilience. 
 
The fragmented nature of governance, funding and strategic planning appears a fundamental hindrance to a more resilient London. The London Plan incorporates the GLA’s resilience policies, but the Mayor has limited powers: implementation is left to separately funded local authorities whose efforts are too often not integrated. The (sadly defunct) 100 Resilient Cities programme undertook, among other things, to place Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) directly below city majors. But, for a CRO to have an impact here, London needs much greater integration and cooperation on resilience planning and strategic execution between central government, local authorities and the GLA. 
 
The case study of the flooded DLR stations in summer 2021 underscores this point: local authority inaction on flood resilience directly impacts London’s transport infrastructure, overseen by the GLA. How can it be that boroughs with substantial flood risk, such as Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, appear to have published little by way of flood resilience strategies, whilst the City of London — which has limited risk, according to the flood map on p29 — has its flood risk strategy published in two documents (Climate Action Strategy 2020-2027 and Thames Estuary Plan 2100)?
 
Fourth and finally, “Resilient London” recognises that for climate resilience, there is both a local and a global response, as discussed by LETI’s Clara Bagenal-George. 
 
At the local level, the guide sets out the design interventions needed to counter locally felt problems of flooding and over-heating. In the global context, to address the causes of climate change, mitigation and adaptation measures must include reuse of our existing buildings, generating more renewables on site, and reducing operational and embodied carbon emissions in the design. Part Z is a proposal to regulate the reporting of and limiting embodied carbon emissions that is widely supported by UK industry, and its implementation will form a key pillar to London’s and the UK’s contribution to reducing global climate risk.

Read the full Resilient London support

Tim den Dekker

Associate
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios


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