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Thermal design of structures and the changing climate


The report presents the work of the Joint Research Centre’s scientific network on adaptation of structural design to climate change focusing on the thermal design of buildings and infrastructure considering the changing climate. It presents scientific and technical background intended to stimulate debate and serve as a basis for further work to study the implications of climate change on the thermal design of structures. The report first outlines recent EU policies in support of sustainability and climate resilience of infrastructure and buildings. It highlights how the construction sector is encouraged to adopt more sustainable and circular economy practices, extend the lifetime of buildings and strive for better performance of buildings and infrastructure throughout their life cycle. It further emphasises the ongoing action plan to adapt the European standards to a changing climate. Following, the report explains the concept of the definition of thermal actions for the design of buildings and infrastructure using the European standards for structural design, i.e. the Eurocodes. It is showed that the adaptation of structural design to the implications of climate change is strongly linked with the assessment of changing characteristics of climatic actions (including thermal ones) in terms of the Eurocodes concept for the variable climatic actions. Variations in temperature that would directly affect the design values for thermal actions in the European standards are studied in depth for the case study of Italy. It is concluded that an increase in the maximum and minimum temperature used for structural design is expected all over Italy. It is discussed that structures, as bridges for example, are expected to be influenced by stresses from extreme temperatures and thus, should be designed for temperature amplitudes justified from climate projections for the actual region. However, the current European maps for thermal design are based on climatic data which, with some exceptions, are mostly 10 to 15 years old and ignore the potential effects of climate change. Thus, new European maps for the thermal design of structures should be developed using data that project more realistically the future climate. To this end, the authors present a methodology for developing thermal maps for structural design taking into account the influence of the changing climate and present an implementation of the methodology using the example of Italy.