How Do You Choose The Right Climate Adaptations for Your Home?
Positive Adaptation and Adaptive Value
One of the most common questions I get is ‘If we stay in our home, what’s the best way to adapt to climate change?’.
Humans tend to make most decisions with an emotional bias, and that’s ok when the consequences can’t bankrupt you or worse — but when it comes to climate risk it gets a little more serious — the wrong decision can turn into disaster. This Adaptive Value tool can help you prioritise.
Many home owners around the world are beginning to join the dots and are starting to wonder what climate change might mean for their own home.
Should you stay? Will climate change really matter? And if it does matter, can you make some smart adaptations to your home that will address the climate risk?
Will you still be able to get home insurance without those adaptations? Do insurers even care yet? If you’re a landlord are you at risk if you don’t make some adaptations for your tenants?
They’re all good questions.
I suppose in a good way there are often multiple ways in which we can adapt our building to address climate risk. But some make more sense than others and have more value than others.
So I’m sharing a user-friendly tool I use to help make these decisions. It can take the emotion out of the process and gives us a reliable way to identify climate adaptations that have the best value for us.
Note that this exercise assumes you’ve already identified how climate change might impact your home. In this example we’re looking at how to deal with increasing heat extremes by making some adaptations to our roof — we just can’t work out which option is best.
For this example I’ve plucked the ‘roof adaptation options’ from here:
7 Ways to Cool Your Roof for a Hotter Climate
In a hotter world, the roof over our heads is our first line of defence
Step 1 — Lay it all Out
Just get all of your adaptation options down on something that you can move around, all and every idea that might have a measurable benefit in improving the way in which your home copes with a changing climate.
Just make sure the options are buildable and available.
Step 2 — Organise by Adaptive Benefit
By Adaptive Benefit I mean the extent to which the adaptation addresses the potential impacts of climate change, i.e., how well does it deal with your risk? In this example, the green roof provides the greatest adaptive benefit — if designed well it will address pretty much all of the acute or physical risks from extreme heat.
The solar panels on the other hand only have a little adaptive benefit in that they could help shade a portion of your existing roof. Remember we’re not talking about cost yet, and in this example we’re only addressing heat risk to your roof.
I’ve become a big fan of green roofs these days (there was a time when I was staunchly against them… but that’s another story). A recent study has shown that a green roof can boost the output from solar panels — so if you start combining some of the adaptation options in this example, like solar panels on a white roof or green roof, you might get 1 + 1 = 3 results.
Even with combinations you’d still use this Adaptive Value tool to identify the best value combinations.
Step 3 — Rank by the Cost
I know money matters. A green roof is a great adaptive measure but it’s also potentially really expensive for a home owner. We need to get real here and recognise that money does matter. This diagram is just a simple exercise to show how to rank by cost — in real life this can be a considerable exercise, and if you want to be accurate you’ll need to consider the detailed costs for each option — not just the install costs but potential approvals, enabling works, and even the costs of moving out for a while to allow the works to be done.
Step 4- Overlay the Strategic Value
Now that we’ve organised by Adaptive Benefit against Cost, we need to identify overall value. This is where we overlay the Strategic Value. It’s a well known decision making tool for managers, adapted for our needs. Apply a simple 4 x 4 grid and label them as shown below.
Step 5 — Prioritise the Adaptations
The final step is to overlay some priority categories.
Think of it this way: if an adaptation has a high Adaptive Benefit and has a low cost to install, you’d just get on with it wouldn’t you? So in this example you’d identify ‘paint the roof white’ as the best investment.
If you’re then still looking for more ways to cool your house down, adopting one or more of the other measures in combination might make sense. This is when this tool becomes a real force — it can be scaled up to assess many more options, and is a great work-in-progress exercise as well.
I hope this one proves useful if you’re a bit stuck with choosing options. Keep in mind that underneath each of the adaptation options there needs to be a lot of homework done — how well can the adaptation address extreme heat? How durable is the adaptation? Will I have to spend more time on maintenance? How much will it cost?
Once you’ve done your homework though, the Adaptive Value tool can then help you make some objective and vital decisions.