Too small to fail: how modest changes can save millions in flood damage
Professor Blair Feltmate says simple changes like adding curbs and water sensors can potentially save lives
Professor Blair Feltmate says simple changes like adding curbs and water sensors can potentially save livesBy Sam Toman Faculty of Environment
When extreme weather hits Canada you can count on several things appearing in the media. Images of swollen rivers, flooded homes, brave first-responders, and University of Waterloo researcher Blair Feltmate clearly and passionately articulating the very real threat our communities face from climate change.
Feltmate, the head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, and a faculty member in the Faculty of Environment isn’t trying to scare anyone. As a frequent media expert and consultant to business and government, he offers more than just finger-pointing. He offers practical advice on cost-effective ways we can adapt our homes and communities against a rising tide of weather-related calamity.
In communities and neighbourhoods across Canada, city planners are looking for opportunities to work with building owners and developers to factor extreme weather resiliency into their design and construction of all new buildings. It’s a connection Feltmate is determined to make happen and it’s why one of the many hats he wears involves working with the Standards Council of Canada to establish new codes for flood-proofing all new homes and commercial buildings.
For some, it’s a different message than they’re used to hearing about climate change. If needed, Feltmate can enthusiastically talk carbon taxation, energy reduction, carbon storage, but he’s just as interested in how modest modifications such as adding a curb to the entrance of an underground parking lot or installing a water sensor on the bottom of an elevator could save millions of dollars and potentially even lives.
Feltmate’s work has been recognized at the highest levels of Canadian business and government, and he’s been tasked with leading the federal government’s expert panel on climate adaptation. The panel provides up-to-date information, supports climate-smart infrastructure and advances updates to building codes. Most importantly the expert panel supports the federal government in better communicating to Canadians how we are preparing for and adapting to the current and future impacts of climate change.
His work with the federal government is in addition to his full-time job helming the Intact Centre in Climate Adaptation (ICCA), a $4.25 million five-year partnership with Intact Insurance for the implementation of a green infrastructure program aimed at reducing the impact of severe precipitation in Canadian communities.
In keeping with its commitment to tackle climate change at the human level, ICCA Canada recently published, After the Flood: The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Lost Time from Work. The study was the first of its kind to explore the human cost of extreme flooding in Canada, as well as the financial cost.
Felmate will be one of several climate change thought leaders featured at the upcoming Waterloo Innovation Summit on November 13 in Vancouver. The theme of this year’s summit will explore how new innovations in technology hold big potential to address global environmental challenges. Felmate will be speaking on the business imperative of climate change and offering his practical expertise on solutions to climate resilience.
To learn more about the event, please visit the Waterloo Innovation Summit website.