Climate adaptation and standardisation – an analysis of existing construction standards and regulations related to climate change adaptation

Building with green ecological wall covered with plants in Rotterdam in the Netherlands

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that human activities have already warmed the earth by around 1.0 °C. Global carbon dioxide emissions reached a new high in that same year. We are already seeing the effects of climate change – e.g. increasing heat exposure, rising sea levels, more frequent and intense heavy rain – and numerous developments suggest that these effects will cause considerable damage to buildings and impair construction activity. This is why the construction industry must take climate change and its consequences into account in future standards and technical regulations.

The possibilities for standards and technical regulations related to climate change adaptation have long been considered in Germany. In 2008, the “German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change” recommended, among other things, that climatic developments should be taken into account in technical construction regulations and construction technology standards. The Adaptation Action Plan I (APA) from 2011 also addressed the issue and stated that the federal government will ensure that standardisation bodies take possible adaptation requirements into account. The Federal Institute on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR), in particular, is responsible for this.

The aim of this project is to build a knowledge base that can help construction standards properly consider climate change. Specifically, it intends to identify those standards and technical regulations in the construction industry that can be affected by extreme weather events and climate change, or that can support climate change adaptation. In addition to DIN standards, this includes standards from other regulatory institutions in Germany, such as the VDI guidelines or the DWA set of rules. Along with the Dresden University of Applied Sciences and the engineering company Prof. Dr. Sieker, adelphi is researching relevant regulations and preparing them in a structured manner. The team is also checking and differentiating the identified standards in order to determine to what extent they are affected by the consequences of climate change. Building on this, the project team will develop recommendations for action in order to practically integrate climate change and its effects into standardisation processes. One goal of the research project is to develop a detailed overview of relevant standards and a methodology for assessing the extent to which standards are affected by climate change. Concrete suggestions on how climate change should be taken into account in standardisation processes round out the project's aims.