Using Technology & Design Tools to help us understand & adapt to climate change issues particularly in historic towns

Over the past few years our ability to build three dimensional computer models for the built environment has increased significantly. These models are now able to help the public and private sectors to better understand the issues associated with a range of development issues including climate change and to develop strategies to help adapt to the changes. Historic towns can be more vulnerable to the impact of climate change and therefore they need to develop specific strategies and action plans.

Over the past decade Arup have developed several computer models for use in defining and analysing urban developments. An early example of this was for Ancoats Village in Manchester - the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution; an area with a rich heritage and several important buildings. We were commissioned in 2000 to develop a 3D computer model of the entire area in order to provide an accurate and reliable tool to plan the regeneration of the area. The model has won awards at both the regional and national Town Planning

Institute. The site can be viewed on Another example is the model built for Northwich; this is a town which has had a history of flooding. In 2005 we were commissioned by Northwich Vision to build a 3D computer model. Like the Ancoats model this was a model which could be navigated using games technology. The Northwich model can show in real time the impact on the town and the buildings of different flood return periods. It has been used to demonstrate to the community how the town would be affected by flooding over time. On a larger scale we have also modelled almost five thousand buildings in Manchester.

As well as being able to model buildings externally we can also use the same technology to create very accurate models of building interiors. The technique used was developed by the military and is capable of surveying and modelling very detailed internal and external features. We have recently modelled the historic Harpurhey Baths. The model will be used to accurately survey the historic features of the building and to plan and design the refurbishment of the baths.

We have very recently launched an Existing Buildings Survival Strategies guide. The guide provides almost two hundred intervention actions which building owners can consider and adopt. The financial consequences of these actions in terms of capital investment and return can then be modelled.

We have also developed a model for measuring CO 2 emissions from vehicles. The model measures change in CO 2 concentration for different transport model splits.

Finally, it is worth noting that it is not just the building and public realm that need to be taken into account when considering climate change. Many towns and cities take their supporting infrastructure for granted, particularly when it is out of sight. In the future we will not be able to take our infrastructure for granted.

Roger Milburn
Ove Arup & Partners Ltd