Building a climate resilient Canada through research
Since 2016, in partnership with Infrastructure Canada (INFC), the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has been leading research to adapt Canada’s infrastructure, including buildings, to climate change and extreme weather.
Through this work, NRC scientists are improving our understanding of how climate change affects the durability, reliability, safety, and service life of Canada’s infrastructure. These advances in science have an important role to play in the way we design, build, and maintain our buildings, roads, bridges, transit systems and other infrastructure moving forward.
To bring science and innovation through to application, we have collaborated with over 150 different experts from across the country, including climate scientists, hydrologists, engineers, wildfire experts, builders and architects. Together, we have developed tools, guidance documents and knowledge that enable the Canadian construction industry to consider climate change and weather extremes in building and infrastructure design.
Climate research in action
Early in our efforts, we recognized the need to start designing buildings and bridges for future climates, instead of continuing to rely on historic climate data. To this end, scientists with expertise in climate change projections across Canada and civil engineers worked together to understand how Canada’s climate is changing, and to present the data in a usable format for structural design. The results can now be explored through the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium’s Design Value Explorer tool. This ground-breaking research marks the first time some future climate design variables were made available in Canada, including wind pressure and design snow loads. The Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code intends to be the first national code to include this future-looking data in their upcoming 2025 edition.
In 2021, the NRC developed and published a National Guide for Wildland-Urban Interface Fires, the first of its kind in Canada. Based on the latest national and international guidance, and input from a committee of national stakeholders, the Guide provides measures for reducing the impacts of wildfires on buildings, lots, and communities. The Guide is informing PacifiCan’s Lytton Homeowner Resilient Rebuild Program, and can help inform broader discussions on wildfire resilience across the country. Together with the Standards Council of Canada, we are now working to broaden the impact of the Guide by using it to inform the development of two new national standards.
Currently, the NRC’s Climate Resilient Built Environment Initiative has over 60 active projects, ranging from preventing corrosion on bridges to studying technologies to replace sandbags for flooding mitigation. This year, we also launched new research projects to support the retrofit of existing residential buildings, focused on providing science-based guidance to help make our homes safer and more durable in a changing climate. Our Canadian Construction Materials Centre has also started a pilot study to develop evaluation criteria for resilient building materials and systems. The goal is to help ensure products are available to meet resilience needs, while enabling Canadian industry to differentiate their products.
Building on climate resilience research
With a growing body of research results, our challenge now turns to ensuring this information is reaching those who need it most. Information about our research on climate-resilient buildings and infrastructure is available online. We are also working closely with INFC to support the development of the Climate Toolkit for Infrastructure, including an online platform to offer the latest science-informed guidance on adaptation.
The NRC and partners will continue to respond to the urgency of climate adaptation and will work to ensure Canada’s construction sector has the knowledge, tools, and technologies it needs for a sustainable and resilient future.