Studio talk: Living with extreme temperatures
Coping during extreme weather calls for greater flexibility. For those with children, it might mean rethinking the day, heading into parks and shady gardens, making more use of early mornings before the midday sun and late afternoons, with councils keeping lidos and paddling pools open later.
Last year was one of the warmest on record, and this year is forecast to be even hotter. The impacts of this are well known and alarming: forest fires, droughts and rising sea levels. In 2022, sea ice in Antarctica reached near-record lows. Nature loss in the UK is amongst the gravest anywhere in the world.
So, what’s it like to work through a long hot summer? For some, in our London studio for example, it made them question their choice to live in a city especially when it became too hot to enjoy many of the activities city life offers. Staying cool when working from home also became a challenge. When coming into the studio, practical measures included changing commute times to avoid crowds. It became far too easy to reach for single-use plastic water bottles to stay hydrated, which means being vigilant to old habits.
Staying positive, remaining engaged and not feeling overwhelmed are all key. Our Bristol studio thought taking micro decisions that collectively make a difference a priority, from carving out time to connect every day with nature to choosing plant-based food for lunch to buying seasonal and local. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, it was widely recognised that this kind of decision can be easier for those more comfortably off.
Even though as landscape architects, planners and designers we are deeply connected to the natural world, there was agreement that we can always do more to advocate the kinds of change we want and need to see. So, a call to action was to share information regularly and set each other challenges, so that we can engage on a city scale and support more sustainable decision making.
The Glasgow studio used the summer as a prompt to talk about what as a collective they could be doing better from reducing paper usage to using more local suppliers, from making sustainable processes part of induction to friendly competitions to increase daily steps taken.
Coping during extreme weather calls for greater flexibility. For those with children, it meant rethinking their day and weeks, heading into parks and shady gardens, making more use of early mornings before the midday sun and late afternoons. In Exeter, the council kept paddling pools open for longer, so things were still social and fun. All of this we need to factor into how we plan more resilient, child friendly places with nature on the doorstep.
The hot summer made LDA employee owners in the Cambridge studio acutely aware of how much water is used and how vital it is to cut back on waste, to recycle where possible and to embed innovative sustainable water systems through design codes into every relevant project. The team also called for wider understanding of the low-energy ways to cool homes in summer and insulate for the colder months.
By the end of the summer, native trees were under stress, which is a concern. Our approach to masterplanning, which takes into consideration the whole ecosystem of a place, addresses these issues. For a current new project, we are working alongside Environment Systems to map how the environment is currently performing and how this might change over time with no intervention under different climate scenarios. Factoring in drought tolerant planting into all our designs is imperative.