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Responding to Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most important issues facing us today. Increasing emissions and rising temperatures are effecting weather patterns and leading to significant impacts on the historic environment. 

Inside the church following flood repair works. A new organ gallery has lifted the organ above known flooding heights and a dado installed below which materials have been used that would be easily replaced should flooding occur again.
St. Michael and All Angels, Tirley, following flood repairs work. A new organ gallery was installed and a dado rail placed above the extent of flood water with materials below the rail designed for ease of replacement should flooding occur again.

You should consider what measures you can take to adapt to a changing climate and the effects of extreme weather patterns. There are a number of items which you should keep in mind when thinking about preparing your building for extreme weather:

  • Gutters and rainwater goods
  • Roofing
  • High level stonework and weathervanes
  • Lightning protection

Adapting to climate change

The changing climate is already producing new challenges for places of worship. Previously successful gutters and downpipes are beginning to fail due to increasingly heavy downpours.

Other potential issues include storm damage, flash flooding, and changes in soil moisture leading to structural problems or problems within churchyards.

The risks will depend on the type of building and its location and we provide guidance on adaptations that is useful for all places of worship.

We provide further guidance on wider mitigation measures against climate change including the reduction of carbon and improving energy efficiency in places of worship.

How can your place of worship be ready?

The first step of preparedness is good routine maintenance. There are a number of small measures you can take that will help you prepare for extreme weather and these should be incorporated into your annual maintenance regime:

  • Gutters, hoppers and downpipes should be clear and free of debris to ensure water flows away safely from the building. When rainwater goods are being replaced it is strongly recommended that you increase their capacity. We have guidance on the design of replacement rainwater goods.
  • Roofing materials should be checked and made secure to prevent loss in high winds or water penetration from missing materials
  • High level stonework should be inspected and checked and made good where it is found to be loose and weathervanes if you have one, should be checked and secured
  • Your lightening protection should be maintained and checked for efficiency. We have guidance available on effective lightening protection.

Dealing with increased flood risk

Flooding can have many causes depending on the whether it happens along the coast, within a river valley or through flash flooding.

Flooding will affect many buildings and some warning will be provided by the Environment Agency and the emergency services. Places of worship in areas prone to flooding should ensure they have an up to date emergency plan.

Flash flooding is a much more difficult problem, because it occurs with little or no warning. Changes in land use, and in soil moisture contents, can cause sudden floods in locations which have never flooded before.

If flooding does happen, it is vital you take the correct actions to reduce any damage caused. We have guidance available on post-flood care of buildings and landscapes.

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