DCN ARCHIVES

December 5, 2012

To the Editor

RE: Nov. 26 Infrastructure must adapt to climate change: Canadian Construction Association

GRG Building Consultants Inc. completed a study on the effects of climate change on a high-rise residential building in Toronto. 

We used the protocol specifically developed by Engineers Canada for this type of assessment.  The building was constructed in the mid 1960s and included design and use elements typical of the vintage.  GRG maintains  a considerable expertise in the required repairs and upgrades on buildings and this one is no exception. 

While it is clear that the Building Codes will have to change to accommodate the effects of climate change, of particular interest is the effect that climate change will have on the required remediation of our enormous existing building stock.

Issues such as the expected increase in temperature and, most particularly, the increased frequency and length of time people and buildings would be experiencing hotter temperatures, sets in play requirements for cooling that have not been previously considered for older buildings. 

Since the heating and ventilation systems in those buildings typically did not allow for air conditioning, the questions engineers will have to answer in the upcoming decade include, how to retrofit in air conditioning, increased mechanical ventilation and what form it takes.

Is it tied to window retrofit with special AC sleeves? Is it by PTAC units added to walls? Is it by installing new central systems that don’t have the room (yet) for those systems? Is it by dedicating floors or parts of floors for cooling centres?

The challenges ahead are deep and fascinating.

As well, building envelope systems including windows and wall components must be redesigned to accommodate increased wind-driven rain pressure and possibly, a broader range of thermal movement to accommodate anticipated temperature extremes.

Most people consider that a couple of degrees of temperature increase won’t have that great an effect on buildings or the occupants but that only represents average conditions.

The predictions are that it will be the short term extreme conditions that engineers will have to design for.  This applies to both existing and new buildings. 

Thank you for the article. These issues are quite important.

Jerry Genge
President of GRG Building Consultants Inc.

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