Sustainable Building

Mitigating the risks of climate change

How RICS professionals are gaining a competitive advantage while transforming one of the most deprived areas in Jamaica

Asia Williams

Member of the Youth Climate Change Network

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Not only is our profession increasingly being called upon to use its influence to meet UN targets and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, it’s also an area where our profession can make a real difference.

The built environment is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions

Drone mapping was carried out to produce proper plans of the area. The team then looked at the structural damage to the gully and assessed how to best use the land. For example, land which is particularly prone to flooding is no longer being used for housing that is likely to be destroyed. Instead, we proposed setting up the area for urban farming projects, more green infrastructure and other small community initiatives.

In addition, better-quality housing, more resilient to the effects of climate change, is being built away from the gully on higher, safer sites.

Finally, waste management policies are being suggested with a view to reducing the vast amount of plastic currently in the gully. As of 1st January 2019, Jamaica has banned all single use plastic.

Policies around effectively managing and recycling waste can make a real difference in mitigating the risks of climate change.

The impact of these changes is profound. For example, as flood risks increase, retrofitting infrastructure to improve the amount of water capacity the sewage systems can hold could protect the livelihoods of millions of people.

Not only is the work of RICS professionals making the area safer for residents, but it is also having a positive impact on the community. The urban farming project and other community initiatives can increase community engagement and empower citizens.

We sought the help of RICS professionals to cost the suggestions for a sustainable plan to improve the capacity of the gully for flood waters.

The changes being implemented will also improve the perception of the area, which in turn positively impacts employment in the area. Asia explains: “Those living in Canterbury, Montego Bay, often struggle to find employment. Employers see their address and they don’t want to hire them based on that address. This work is improving the perception of the area which is also good for the employment prospects of locals.”

This is just one project demonstrating how RICS professionals are using their skills to not only adapt to the effects of climate change but add real social value. However, there is a long way to go.

Asia asserts that additional short-term costs for environmental benefits shouldn’t be seen as a cost but an investment, providing a long-term solution. Finding the appropriate balance between profit and long-term view is crucial.

Asia adds: “In the future, environmental and sustainability compliance in line with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and enhanced biodiversity will play a huge role in determining how companies win work.”

We want to formalise the settlements so that adequate infrastructure can be built. The redesign would improve access for emergency services, improve the sewage system and formalise a planning approach.

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