A research project aimed at examining ways in which suburban neighbourhoods can adapt to cope with climate change has been launched by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The £651,000 SNACC (Suburban Neighbourhood Adaptation for a Changing Climate) project is being led by the University of the West of England (UWE) alongside Oxford Brookes University, Heriot-Watt University and a number of international partners.
The project will look at ways in which the social and technological structure of neighbourhoods can be changed to mitigate climate change. Research will focus on the technical performance of these changes and how practical the actions would be to implement.
Prof Katie Williams, project leader, said: '80 per cent of people in the UK live in suburbs, so this is the environment in which the majority of our domestic lives will be affected by climate change. At the moment we are not doing anything to alter these environments to cope with the consequences of climate change. Most research so far has concentrated on issues relating to urban areas, and very little attention has been paid to how to reduce further impacts of climate change in suburban areas and also to withstand ongoing changes.
‘We know that our summers will gradually become hotter and drier, our winters will be wetter and milder, and that there will be an increase in extreme events – such as more frequent high temperatures, heavy rain and high-speed winds.'
She added that the research will look at actions to cope with higher temperatures such as planting more trees to increase shading, installing ponds and rainwater systems to enable the re-use of rainwater and reinforcing roofing to cope with extreme weather.
Williams said: 'In addition we will look at public spaces and the role local authorities can play to mitigate climate change. There may be a case, for example, for additional open spaces and water features such as ponds and fountains in our public spaces.
‘A key aspect of our research will be to look at the social side of all this and to see what adaptations would be practical and acceptable to home owners. Our team will include social scientists and psychologists working together with experts in transport, the built environment and climate change, so that we can find the best solutions to some of these climate-change issues, to enable home owners and local authorities to play their part in mitigating against climate change.’
The research will be supported by Oxford City, Stockport and Bristol City councils, who will provide information to back-up case studies in these areas.