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Construction Corner: Portal helps organizations factor in climate change

Korky Koroluk
Construction Corner: Portal helps organizations factor in climate change

An Ottawa consultancy has unveiled a new online resource that’s designed to help organizations factor the impact of climate change into decisions relating to, among other things, infrastructure.

Risk Sciences International launched its Climate Change Hazards Information Portal (CCHIP) at a mid-month symposium on adapting to climate change. The firm includes former Environment Canada engineers and researchers.

CCHIP uses data from 40 global climate models among other sources. It tailors its information for specific locations and industry sectors. The idea is to help planners, engineers and decision-makers to make informed decisions relating to climate and severe weather.

"CCHIP makes climate data accessible to a greater cross-section of Canadian society than ever before," said Daniel Krewski, CEO of Risk Sciences. He said that what was once at the fingertips of a select few groups across Canada is now within reach of many more groups, communities and individuals.

The change in government that occurred in last fall’s federal election, changed the whole conversation about climate change. Saying it is real no longer results in hoots of derision. Whether the climate is changing and what is causing it is not a part of informed debate. Informed debate leads to informed decisions and that’s what CCHIP is all about.

"Climate change is real," says Greg Paoli, who is also COO of Risk Sciences. "And as much as we’re starting to make changes to ensure its worst effects are never realized, a certain degree of adaptation will be required."

Roughly three-quarters of the buildings in the Greater Toronto Area were built before the advent of modern flood-control measures. That fact was brought home painfully when, on July 8, 2013, a storm dumped 126 millimetres of rain on the city. That led to an eventual insurance payout of nearly $1 billion and drove insurance premiums for many homeowners up by between 15 and 20 per cent.

That event, coupled with the Calgary floods the same year, led to insurance payouts for the year of $3.2 billion. CCHIP is intended to be another tool that can be used to establish design standards for projects like telecommunication towers and overhead electricity transmission towers, both of which can suffer severe damage from things like ice storms in the winter and high winds anytime.

Dams, bridges or roads are also likely to suffer damage as a result of a changing climate.

Engineers and designers who refer to the National Model Building Code, any of the provincial codes, or the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code will be able to incorporate insights from CCHIP to help during design, construction and maintenance. Municipal engineers and town planners will likewise be able to seek guidance in CCHIP for planning things like storm drains, retention ponds and other flood-control measures.

They already know that planning for 100-year storms isn’t enough anymore, since those big storms are more likely to happen every 30 years or so and they may feel they need help with some of the planning decisions. They might find it in CCHIP.

CCHIP represents the culmination of many years of work. It pre-analyzes data to provide climate information in formats designed to fit seamlessly into the planning and design decisions made every day.

Until now, much of the data about our changing climate hasn’t been in an easily understandable form. Now that is available to every day decision-makers.  They’re available to smaller organizations, rural communities, aboriginal groups and others who haven’t had access to data described and interpreted in a meaningful way.

CCHIP is a web-based portal that opens access to all these data and the insights they provide. It will help planners and designers adjust to future impacts on all manner of infrastructure and resources.

This website is still in beta, but it will grow with time, becoming move valuable with every entry. If you want early access to the beta version you can find it at

Korky Koroluk is an Ottawa-based freelance writer. Send comments to

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