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Climate Proofing Housing Landscapes

A project in London proves that homes are key for cities to cope with climate change

London, 26 January 2016 | Published in Energy

Through its Climate Proofing Housing Landscapes project, Groundwork London, one of the UK’s leading environmental and social regeneration charities, is working in partnership with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to design and implement climate change adaptation measures on three housing estates.

Part funded by the European Commission’s LIFE+ Environment programme, the measures will help to make the estates more resilient in the future, at the same time delivering a range of other benefits to residents, including employment and training opportunities, play features, food growing spaces and improved visual amenity.

Adapting social housing to climate change

Climate Proofing Housing Landscapes aims to demonstrate that urban housing estates can play an important part in adapting our cities to cope better with climate change, with a core focus on implementing water sensitive urban design measures on the estates – including green roofs, green walls and ground-level green infrastructure measures. The three estates, different in their structure, landscaping and size, were chosen in order to demonstrate how such measures can be implemented in a wide range of urban housing settings.

These measures are helping to reduce the local risk of climate impacts such as flooding and heat waves, a challenge which is being faced in urban areas across Europe. The solutions are highly replicable – functional, affordable, light-engineering solutions which can be applied even in small green spaces. They demonstrate the value of small-scale adaptation plans for existing housing, whilst at the same time being applicable to new developments too.

One of the unique aspects of the project is that, through offering training and employment opportunities for apprentices to carry out and maintain some of the adaptation features as part of Groundwork London’s Green Teams, it has also demonstrated the business case for cross-cutting investment in such measures, for example through neighbourhood services or community investment programmes. The training and employment opportunities have in many cases supported taking locally based apprentices out of long-term unemployment.

Residents are also being closely engaged throughout the project, giving them an opportunity to shape the open space improvements on their estates, raising their awareness of climate change issues and helping them to see the benefits of taking action themselves – not just for the environment, but also for their homes, health and well-being.

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Current progress

The project has completed the improvements on two of the three estates, with the third site to complete by early Spring. These improvements are showcased in a new 360° tour, which is available on the Groundwork London website.

Green Team practitioners are currently maintaining and managing the site improvements, with food growing clubs and community activities taking place to support continued engagement with residents. Housing and grounds maintenance staff and contractors are also being trained in how to maintain these measures and replicate them elsewhere, ensuring their longevity beyond the lifetime of the project.

Next steps

A range of materials are currently being developed – including a project film, implementation guide and training programme – all of which will be made publicly available later this year. The implementation guide aims to enable housing providers to replicate the approaches adopted in this project across their own housing stock by providing key tools, resources and best practice case studies. The guide sets out the main impacts of, and lessons learned from, the project, and offers practical guidance as well as signposting to other useful resources.