We may not realise it, but climate change affects our roads. As well as affecting their performance, causing slower journey times, lower visibility and poorer driving conditions, extreme weather – whether high temperatures, strong winds or flooding, causes damage to our roads. This means more frequent maintenance, repairs and rebuilding, as well as disruption and closure.Embed from Getty Images
It’s clear we need to factor in climate change when designing, building and maintaining our road networks in the future to protect them – and us – from damage caused by extremes of weather and potentially a changing landscape.Embed from Getty Images
Developers are cooking up a storm with new ideas – here’s just a few.
1) Superhydrophobic materials
Too much water on the road surface creates a range of problems. Not just for drivers and cyclists by reducing their visibility, but also pedestrians and wildlife.
With more and more wetter years, the problems are only going to get worse.
Superhydrophobic materials repel water so it can’t penetrate beneath the road surface and dislodge the foundations.
The science is inspired by nature! Things like butterfly wings, rose petals, feathers and fish scales are naturally water repellent.Embed from Getty Images
2) Using concrete for roads
The materials we use to build our roads need to withstand rising temperatures without cracking or melting.
Tarmac is prone to melting in high temperatures, whilst concrete has a higher temperature resistance.
It can also be assembled in pre-made sections which has the advantage of faster installation and repairs.Embed from Getty Images
3) Trees and bushes
As well as reducing sound pollution, trees and bushes provide shade to the road helping reduce surface temperatures on sunny days.
New thinking suggests that instead of lining our roads with trees, which in heavy flooding could fall and cause damage and potentially injury, a better choice might be tough woody bushes that are used in wet and hot conditions.Embed from Getty Images
4) Smart technology
Smart technology can be used to monitor road surfaces and spot any issues caused by extreme temperatures before they become big problems.
They can also regulate traffic flow and prevent traffic congestion.Embed from Getty Images
5) Using reflection
Very hot temperatures can melt road surfaces.
So to cool them down, we can simply use reflection!
We can increase the reflectance of the surface using bright, coloured elements and reflective coatings of road surfaces.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s time travel to the year 2050…
We all know about the challenges of climate change and new technology is really making a splash – literally!
New roads have sensors which read weather reports and predict flooding – opening extra drains before a single drop of water has fallen, in the same way gritter trucks used to treat roads before snow fell – of course, with solar heated roads that’s a problem we’ve left in the past!
The water isn’t wasted – it’s cleaned and diverted to a super splash swimming pool with the worlds’ tallest water slide – fancy a dip?
…aaaand we’re back in 2023.Embed from Getty Images
Sounds like fun! So as you can see, it’s good to take climate change seriously and take steps to make changes to their design and construction to protect our road networks from its effects.
You could be part of the change. We want you to use your imagination and think about how else we might protect our roads against the challenge of climate change to keep us safe.
Tell us your ideas about how YOU would build a better road in the future for your chance to win.