Will the VC be wearing shorts at your future campus?

The number of days over 35 degrees is set to double at many campuses by 2090, while flooding and/or cyclones could become regular events at others.

While Universities across the country are embarking on new construction projects, insurance and climate experts have warned that climate change scenarios need to be factored in if buildings are not going to be redundant.

Unimutual CEO Geoff Henderson said that many universities were considering requirements for new university facilities, particularly in the wake of the Final Report on the Accord, which recommended that tertiary enrolments double by 2050, ramping up pressure on campus facilities. The Accord report also noted that “Research infrastructure facilities are crucial to strong foundations for Australia’s research sector,” but also warned regional university campuses “may be subject to supply chain issues and additional expenses, making the maintenance and building of infrastructure and facilities more costly than in cities.”

“At a time of great change in regulation, with looming caps and new policies in relation to most facets of education, it is tempting just to look at immediate impacts on campus facilities, but the reality of climate change is that universities need to start looking at future weather impacts now, to avoid risks of skyrocketing premiums or being denied insurance in future,” Mr Henderson said.

Because of the time it takes for planning approval and project completions, universities have to consider future environmental factors that could impact in or even destroy buildings they are planning today.

Unimutual, the sector’s risk protection experts, have teamed up with reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter and risk modelling firm Risk Frontiers, to provide individual tailored reports to members, showing the possible impacts of climate change on their campuses in 2030, 2050 and 2090.

“The insights are pretty eye opening, especially looking further down the road at 2050 and 2090. In some areas the number of days over 35 degrees will double – raising questions about air conditioning needs and energy use. In other areas, there will be a significant increase in annual rainfall, raising the risk of flooding,” Mr Henderson said.

Unimutual have been recommending to their University Members that they remove high value equipment and artworks from basement levels and from ground floor levels in locations prone to flooding. “The sector has made great progress in the management of this risk, however, we have some way to go.” Likewise, with increased storm activity, there is an increased risk of roof leaks, so it is unwise to put your best equipment on the top floor.

“We are all seeing the impacts of climate change on our home insurance policies, and the issues with housing in some areas potentially continuing to be uninsurable over the next couple of years because of increased flood or fire risk.

“The same issues are going to come up at universities in the future and so are worth considering now. Maybe we need to reconsider building design, with ground floors being used for carparking and offices and research laboratories starting on higher floors. We definitely need to consider changing building construction materials and design to account for more heat, and increasing intensity of storms and cyclones.

“A number of regional campuses are in areas where it is more expensive to build, and where there will be also higher threats from floods, storms or bushfires. We think this modelling and the advice that Unimutual provides its Members is really valuable in helping campuses plan for a better future.

“These environmental factors are with us now, and if we want to get value from building and refurbishment projects, we need to make sure that we consider how our climate will change in the future.”



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