AIRAH puts timely focus on resilience

Thursday, August 2, 2018

AIRAH held its inaugural Resilience Forum on July 26 at UTS in Sydney, and it could not have come at a more opportune moment.

The event gave around 70 of the country’s leading business services and HVAC&R experts a dedicated space to explore the emerging concept of resilience. The focus was on designing a built environment that can withstand increasingly extreme climatic conditions and bounce back quickly from natural disasters.

The Resilience Forum attracted special attention due to two key events that occurred in the lead-up.

First, on the world stage, record temperatures in Japan saw more than 80 people die and tens of thousands hospitalised for heatstroke. At the same time, Japanese energy prices hit a record high due to the increased air conditioning load. This natural disaster is one that may well be repeated in other parts of the world as impacts of climate change increase.

At a local level, a group of 33 Sydney metropolitan councils and the 100 Resilient Cities movement unveiled Resilient Sydney, a roadmap for making Sydney a more resilient city. One of the leaders of this initiative was Sydney’s chief resilience officer Beck Dawson – the keynote speaker at the Resilience Forum.

Accordingly, the Resilience Forum highlighted the threat of climate change, and explored the ways we can mitigate against extreme weather through good design.

“When we talk about climate change we tend to fall into the rhetoric of doom and gloom,” says AIRAH executive manager – government relations and technical services Phil Wilkinson, F.AIRAH, who delivered the opening address.

“The great thing about the resilience movement – and the Resilience Forum – is that it asks, ‘What can we do about it?’ And that’s not just in terms of designing buildings to withstand extreme weather, but also making our systems more sustainable to reduce climate change in the first place.”

The talks ranged from broader conversations about holistic, city-wide approaches to resilience, to detailed presentations on the importance of accurate weather files in predicting future building conditions.

“The program included speakers on such a wide range of topics that affect the resilience of a building,” says Atelier Ten’s Anna Brannon, who spoke about designing facades for the future climate. “The presentation on modelling of cool roofs had direct implications to the work I do on a daily basis.”

Brannon says the Resilience Forum focused attendees on the important task ahead.

“There is no one quick fix,” she says. “It requires people from every stage of the life cycle of a building to stand up and take part. It’s our responsibility to protect not only the buildings, but the occupants of those buildings from harm.”

Stockland’s Greg Johnson, M.AIRAH, who also presented at the Forum, was impressed by the mix and engagement of the audience. Despite the major challenges ahead, he saw the event as proof positive the industry can tackle them together.

“It’s great to see that there is some work being done in this space, and that tools are available to assist the creation of alternate climate scenarios,” Johnson says. “It’s vitally important that the industry works together to assist the HVAC sector across multiple criteria around equipment design, system engineering, installation and operation through its life cycle as we head into a changing climate.”

AIRAH thanks the event sponsors A.G. Coombs, and supporters BlueScope Steel, Smardt and iHub.