Building climate resilience in China and Britain

A China-UK forum shared knowledge on building climate resilience. Dr Anastasia Mylona reports

CIBSE was among sustainability experts from the UK and China who met recently to share knowledge on climate resilience and low carbon solutions in the built environment.

The China-UK Research and Innovation Forum, on the theme of ‘Urban built environments and thermal resilience under low carbon transition mode’, featured academics from Chinese and British universities. CIBSE was the only professional body invited to showcase its research on climate resilience. 

Experts from the UK included: Professor Tim Broyd, UCL; Professor Christopher Pain, Imperial College London; Professor Prashant Kumar, University of Surrey; Associate Professor Eugene Mohareb, University of Reading; and Visiting Professor Darren Woolf (chair of CIBSE’s Building Simulation Group) and Dr Katherine Roberts, both from the University of Cambridge.

The event was organised by professors Runming Yao and Baizhan Li, of Sustainable Development in the Building and Environment (SuDBE) at Chongqing University, the National Centre for International Research of Low carbon and Green Buildings, and the Joint International Research Laboratory of Green Building and Built Environments. 

I discussed the role of professional bodies in the translation and dissemination of academic research for industry and policy-makers. My presentation focused on the importance of climate adaptation, while also meeting net zero targets, in the design of buildings. I described the use of the adaptive comfort model (TM52) and CIBSE future weather profiles in the assessment of overheating in buildings.

Sustainable cooling

Other themes from the UK delegation included the role of AI in computational and data analysis to inform urban and building design decisions (Pain), the role of cross disciplinary collaborations, and the importance of systems design and whole life assessment (Broyd). 

The impact of green infrastructure on indoor and outdoor environments (Kumar) and retrofit decisions with occupant satisfaction and biodiversity in mind (Mohareb) were highlighted by UK experts. Woolf and Roberts discussed the role of natural ventilation and urban morphology in cities.

While the British experts discussed passive urban and building design solutions, the Chinese experts – perhaps not surprisingly – focused on sustainable cooling systems, such as reversible heat pumps and radiant panels (Professor Borong Lin, Tsinghua University), renewable technologies, and indoor and localised environmental controls. 

In a warming climate, the topic of sustainable cooling solutions will become more relevant in the coming years in the UK, and collaborations between the two countries could be beneficial. 

Chong Meng (director at China Academy of Building Research) presented the Chinese government’s Healthy China 2030 programme, which aims to improve public health outcomes by addressing challenges such as chronic and infectious diseases, and environmental health hazards. Professor Haidong Kan (Fudan University) looked at the impact of poor air quality and high temperatures on people’s health and productivity. He said higher accident rates, suicides and incidents of violence have been recorded as a result of higher temperatures.

On the second day of the forum, the SuDBE team ran a workshop on building resilience. The most effective solutions suggested by the joint panel to address urban-scale thermal resilience were: blue-green infrastructure; reflective material/cool roofs; urban morphology to enable urban ventilation; human behaviour/adaptation and cultural changes; and resilient infrastructure.

The solutions to address building-scale thermal resilience were split between the two groups with the UK group suggesting: passive design; whole-life thinking; energy demand management and renewable generation; and occupant behaviour and education.

The Chinese group came up with: passive design; active design: controls/system design/system efficiency; renewable energy and electricity storage/local use. The two-day event established an international network of experts, encouraged the open exchange of ideas, and generated a lot of possibilities for further collaborations. The group will work together to put forward projects, and CIBSE will benefit from the research produced by these collaborations, to develop guidance and tools for its members and the wider industry.