Adaptive mitigation: Piloting climate change solutions for multi-family buildings

Vienna House as seen from Stainsbury Avenue (Courtesy PUBLIC Architecture + Communication).

Multi-family buildings present both opportunities and challenges relating to climate change adaptation and mitigation. For instance, while more compact housing reduces energy demand and transportation emissions, it can also increase the urban heat island.

That’s where a partnership between UBC’s PICS Opportunity Projects Program (OPP) and BC Housing comes in. The partners are investigating how to integrate both climate mitigation and adaptation solutions into the design of multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs).

The goal is to find synergies, while avoiding conflicts or unintended consequences, among mitigation and adaptation strategies to ensure an integrated climate-solutions approach to building better, more climate-resilient buildings.

For example, a climate adaptation based on expected higher temperatures might suggest air conditioning be added to a planned MURB; but AC can be an energy drain, which may result in greater greenhouse gas emissions. That represents both a conflict and an unintended consequence. A different approach might be designing common, accessible spaces in naturally cooler lower floors, or inclusion of a central outdoor courtyard with shaded shelters — such strategies offer both adaptation and mitigation solutions, and an added benefit of improving social cohesion in such buildings.

The two-year UBC PICS/BC Housing research project culminated in the creation of the Integrated Building Adaptation and Mitigation Assessment (IBAMA) framework available for use by building industry professionals, including architects, engineers, developers and owners of MURBs so they consider, during the design process, a variety of climate-related factors.

Implementation of the IBAMA framework is now being funded by PICS under a newly created Research Implementation category, in which funds are allocated specifically for continued advancement of implementation for OPP or Theme projects after their formal end date.

The first project under this initiative is supporting pilot projects to further develop and refine the IBAMA framework in partnership with BC Housing and the Climate Action Secretariat.

The researcher is working closely with BC Housing project managers and design teams to use the framework in both the pre-design and design phases of the new construction to inform integrated adaptation and mitigation solutions for the buildings being developed, as well as assessment and recommendations for improved content and implementation of IBAMA.

The pilots are: Rosewood Village, a BC Housing-owned redevelopment project in Richmond, BC; and the səlilwətaʔɬ Housing Project, a Tsleil-Waututh Nation-owned new development on the Nation’s land in North Vancouver, BC.

BC Housing may also apply the IBAMA framework to two of its own retrofit projects already under development to assess the resilience of existing buildings, and modifications that may be considered to improve their buildings’ adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change.

These pilots are instrumental in testing implementation of the IBAMA framework, and, in time, fulfilling the original PICS project objectives: to influence future building codes, standards and construction best practices for both adaptation and mitigation in BC and beyond.