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Architects 'must take note of climate change to avoid legal woe'

Architects could risk the threat of negligence claims if they ignore the effects of climate change, a leading City law firm has warned.

Following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which concludes that climate change is 'now unequivocal', Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) has stated that construction professionals can no longer ignore the potential risks of major environmental change.

Alex Hamer, a partner at RPC, said: 'The consensus on climate change forecasts very significant increases in property damage through extreme weather conditions. Where there is damage, people inevitably look for someone to blame.

'If construction professionals fail to factor the impact of climate change into their plans, designs and calculations, they do so at their peril.'

The law firm not only mentioned heavy rain and higher winds as possible threats to buildings, but also highlights heat waves and disease as something architects need to factor into their design.

Hamer added: 'The fatalities from the 2003 heat wave, when some 30,000 people died across Europe, shows the potential for future injury claims where building designers have failed to take into account the risks. The spread of disease is another effect, which could be linked to oversights in construction.'

One such illness is Legionnaires disease, which the Health Protection Agency reported as the first disease in the UK to increase due to climate change. The figures from 2005 were doubled by August 2006, and exceeded all previous records.

According to the law firm, action can already be taken to limit the risk of claims, such as ensuring everyone involved is aware of the limitations in design and specifications.

by Richard Vaughan

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