Constructing Climate Resilient Infrastructure
Although there is an increased awareness of the need to adapt as a result of the risks of climate change this has not yet generally led to concerted and focussed action. Where adaptation action has taken place within the transport sector, there tends to be a focus on short term civil contingency work to respond to extreme weather events rather than planning for longer time periods to consider incremental changes in the climate.
Increasing the resilience of highways to climate change impacts involves assessing the risks of climate change and action planning to identify appropriate adaptation action, which may include:
Understanding thresholds: there is a need for a better understanding of how materials and systems react to climate variables such as temperature and precipitation and the thresholds at which deterioration or disruption occurs. TRL has undertaken a project for the University of Nottingham using our pavement testing facility to investigate the rutting of asphalt pavement under different wheel loads at high temperatures. This will help provide a better understanding of the temperature thresholds at which deformation occurs.
Identifying risks and vulnerabilities: Once thresholds have been identified information on the projected climate of the UK over the next century from the UK Climate Projections can be used to explore the frequency that thresholds are likely to be exceeded in future. This information can then be used to assess the risk of climate change impacts on transport systems and the specific areas of vulnerability (these could be spatial or activities that are particular vulnerable). TRL has supported the development of risk assessments for both Government Departments and local authorities.
Assessing adaptation actions: Effective actions to minimise damage and disruption need to be identified, prioritised and a timeframe for actions developed. Adaptation actions include:
- physical changes, e.g. changing surface materials,
- procedural changes, e.g. checking drains in vulnerable areas when heavy rain is forecast,
- organisational changes, e.g. - changes in policy, standards, contracts, decision making, investment etc.
TRL has been involved in a number of climate change adaptation projects supporting the development of a future transport network that is resilient to climate change. We have also set up an international initiative called Resilient Mobility to promote policy making and actions to increase the climate change resilience of transport.