SNACC: Suburban Neighbourhood Adaptation for a Changing Climate - identifying effective, practical and acceptable means of suburban re-design

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of the Built Environment


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Description England's suburbs need protection from future climate change. They will experience hotter and drier summers, with more heat-waves, and winters that are milder, and wetter, with more storms, and the potential for more flooding. Hence, the SNACC project answers the questions: How can existing suburban neighbourhoods in England be 'best' adapted to reduce further impacts of climate change and withstand ongoing changes? and; What are the processes that bring about climate-change motivated adaptation in suburban areas?

We sought to find out which adaptations to the physical environment of homes, gardens and suburban public spaces work best and how they can be delivered. In testing adaptations we determined if they were effective, feasible and acceptable. The project used a combination of modelling, visualisations and workshops with residents and stakeholders to determine what effective adaptation would be. We undertook most of the research in 6 suburbs in 3 cities: Oxford, Stockport and Bristol.

We found that at the home and garden scales some mitigation and adaptation actions are taking place, but not because people are driven by 'climate change'. Residents are motivated by, for example, saving money, the image of their home, and DIY. At the neighbourhood scale, very little adaptive action is taking place, and there is no clear process, or delivery mechanism, for adaptation and/or mitigation.

In terms of identifying the 'best' adaptations, there is no 'one size fits all' adaptation package. However, to be effective in the future, we need to combine 'adaptive retrofitting' with 'low carbon retrofitting'. Although the UK is projected to remain a heating dominated climate, adaptive measures to reduce the risk of future overheating on a house level are urgently needed. For residents, the 'best' adaptations tend to be cheap, convenient, practical, and attractive.

In terms of mitigating climate change, home energy saving adaptations were effective in almost all suburbs. Increased greening of homes and gardens has multiple benefits. To reduce flood risks, adaptations need to address pluvial as well as fluvial flooding. To address overheating, a number of adaptations are effective, but their performance depends on the characteristics of the home: external shading is more effective than internal. At the neighbourhood scale, blue and green infrastructure is likely to bring cooling benefits. There are effective measures to adapt to droughts and water stress, but residents are unlikely to take anticipatory measures against storm damage. At the neighbourhood scale, climate-resilient planting is effective, as are SUDS, but they are likely to be both expensive and disruptive to retrofit.

Our research into what might motivate change revealed that people believe they will act if and when they experience different weather patterns. Institutional stakeholders see the need to consider adaptation in their long-term planning and day-to-day activities. All groups reported a lack of resources to adapt, and a lack of clarity about who was responsible for leading action. Residents needed information about adaptation to be clear, delivered at critical times, and from trusted agencies.

The house price modelling showed that a range of adaptation and mitigation measures (but not all) could be shown to impact on housing values. Generally the measures assessed here (energy efficiency performance and measures, gardens and greenspace) have a positive effect on house values, although this would not be the case for intensification. This may be taken to be an additional motivator for householders to invest in such measures, or to support their general introduction. In the case of energy efficiency, the value enhancement is associated with a prospective saving in annual energy bills, and the research also explored the related issue of energy consumption behaviour.
Sectors Environment