How Climate Change May Affect Your Property
Updated: Sep 6
It’s hard to deny that the effects of climate change have had a significant impact on our everyday lives. If it seems as though the winters are milder, the summers hotter, and the weather overall more volatile, it’s because they are – from 1948 to 2016, the average annual temperature in Canada increased by 1.7° C, and experts predict that summer days exceeding 30° C in southern Canada will be four times more frequent by 2050. Good news for summer lovers, right? Not quite. They days will not only be exceedingly hot, they’ll also be exceedingly wet; annual rainfall from 2031 to 2050 is expected to jump 5.3 to 6.6% depending on the level of carbon dioxide emissions by humans. Due to mass deforestation and environmental pollution, carbon dioxide levels are out of sync, as there are more humans producing it than plants transforming it into oxygen.
Photo by Markus Spiske
The problem here is that more rain equals more flooding – some readers may remember the storm that washed over Burlington in 2014, flooding around 3,500 homes (including condos). Most of us may also remember the flash flood that hit Toronto in 2018, which turned much of the city into Venice over a span of only two hours. As the frequency of heavy rain increases over time, the outdated sewage systems of major cities like Toronto will only cause more of these events.
Global Warming And Your Wallet
Property managers looking after industrial, institutional, and especially commercial and multi-residential buildings will almost certainly feel the effects of climate change both on their tenants and on their wallets. From 1983 to 2008, for example, Canada’s property and casualty insurance sector tallied around $250 to $250 million annually. Since then, however, losses have swelled to over $1 billion, averaging $1.8 billion annually for 10 out of the past 11 years. Moreover, according to the insurance Bureau of Canada, severe weather events in 2021 led to approximately $2.1 billion in insured damage from flooding, wildfires, and other extreme weather patterns, resulting in a significant spike in insurance rates and claims. While condos, commercial, and office buildings are better protected from the impacts of global warming due to their dedicated HVAC systems, these same systems are costly and put considerable stress on the electrical grid, leading to more outdoor air pollution.
The popularity of glass high-rises, in particular, plays a significant role in the growing cost of HVAC maintenance and regulation. While the tenants of these glass towers might enjoy a set of chic floor-to-ceiling windows, condos made of glass are poor insulators, allowing cool air to escape and hot air to be reflected into a building. As a result, air conditioning units have to be turned up to compensate, leading to higher utility bills.
Furthermore, flooding risks also put a considerable dent in a property manager’s bottom line. The main factor behind the high premiums on condos seems to be internal water damage from leaky pipes and sinks, further exacerbated by the heavy waterflow caused by rainfalls. The increased chances of flooding through these buildings also creates more opportunities for mould to grow, ultimately rotting away at existing mechanical systems and building infrastructure in the long-term. In the end, it isn’t a matter of if property managers should consider retrofitting or upgrading their buildings with new technology to address climate change, but when.
So What Can You Do?
To avoid your property becoming a casualty of global warming and climate change, it’s important to be proactive in ensuring that it’s protected from common risks associated with temperature shifts and rainfall. The simplest way to do this is through basic maintenance. Be sure that you are regularly cleaning out gutters and downspouts, checking that your fire safety protocols are up to date, and looking for any cracks or weaknesses in your building that could lead to damage in the event of a flood. Clearing out your gutters and spouts will prevent rainwater from flowing back into a building, staying updated on fire safety protocols will ensure the wellbeing of your tenants in case of emergency, and sealing up any cracks in your building will prevent cold air from escaping during the warmer months, saving you a ton on cooling bills.
Structurally, buildings with wooden frames are weaker than concrete buildings, and while modern developments require emergency safety nets such as hurricane straps on trusses and vertical reinforcements, these are often impossible or impractical to integrate within older buildings. Still, property owners and managers should look into upgrading their building's roofing, cladding, windows, and doors to make them more stable against potential wind damage.
You should also consider establishing a safe room, one with sealed off walls that is impervious to wind, rain, or flying debris. In the past it might have been silly to think about safe rooms in condos, but considering the tornado that ripped through southern Ontario during the summer of 2022, it’s better to plan for the worst than have to figure out how to patch over a window that’s had a tree put through it.
Just need to buff some of those scratches out, no problem.
The next time you find yourself and your property in the way of nature's wrath, it's important to take several steps to ensure minimal damage. Loose outdoor objects should be secured, surge protectors should be installed, and owners and managers should ensure that they are adequately covered by insurance, as well as connected with a full-service property restoration company (give us a shout, we know a couple people, wink wink).
Of course, these are simply a few basic methods of safeguarding your property against potential heat or rain issues. Ultimately, the efficacy of your building against the impacts of climate change are dependent on its integrated systems – that’s where we come in. EAMA offers a range of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing services for commercial, office, industrial, and multi-residential properties. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your HVAC system, retrofit your property’s lighting, or simply looking for preventative maintenance on your plumbing, our team of certified experts has the tools and experience to help. We can also install sustainable and environmentally friendly HVAC and electrical systems, allowing you to do your part to curb the impact of climate change. Give us a call today and see what the EAMA team can do to prepare your property for the future.