This report details the process and findings from the first climate risk assessment carried out for RMIT University. Whist the primary focus is on the Melbourne City campus the research activity also draws on interviews and documentation from the RMIT International campus in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC ), Vietnam. The assessment process that has been developed, and many of the key findings, will also be transferable to the infrastructure and activity of other RMIT campuses.
The assessment work carried out was commissioned by RMIT’s Sustainability Committee as a significant comp onent of the Sustainability Action Plan for the University. The analysis considered current vulnerabilities to climate-related events, an integrated assessment of future risks, and the identification of potential adaptation options; as well as possible ways to strengthen institutional adaptive capacity. The methodology developed for this assessment process is considered innovative; integrating bottom-up vulnerability assessment approaches (focusing on built infrastructure and systems, institutional frameworks and policy, and personnel) with a top-down climate risk framework. As far as the authors are aware, this is the first such assessment for a tertiary institute in Australia, and only one of a handful that could be identified internationally. Due to the relatively short-term focus to 2030, a time frame considered most useful from a University planning perspective, a vulnerability approach eliciting information from recent personal knowledge and experience was particularly appropriate. This also exploits a secondary benefit – allowing the University to access considerable ‘in-house’ knowledge of a broad spectrum of risks and harnessing the expertise to begin a more systematic prioritisation of risks and assessment of adaptation options.
Findings have highlig hted that extreme heat and rainfall events are the major climate-related hazards currently affecting the University; with impacts evidenced through heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), information technology services (ITS), and drainage and leakage issues affecting the built infrastructure. It was also found that many of these issues are inter-connected with the potential for cumulative impacts. When looking forward to 2030, guided by authoritative future climate scenarios for Melbourne, the increasing frequency and intensity of such events is likely to amplify these impacts. When considering the additional ‘slow-onset’ issue of drought / longer term drying, the high risks identified by the assessment process (involving interviews, workshops and one-on-one engagement with expert staff) highlighted the following: structural cracking of buildings, infrastructure cracking, damage to buildings by storm events, communications and ITS failure, and HVAC failure and loss of capacity. Moderate risks were also identified as part of the assessment process.
To help guide a strategic University response a suite of adaptation options ha s been compiled and are listed in this report. These measures have been categorised according to: infrastructure, behavioural, information management, policy and procedures, and suggested areas for further investigation. It is important to note that whilst this initial assessment has identified a spectrum of current and future climate - related risks, and laid out a range of possible adaptation options, this initial document should be viewed as representing the first steps of developing an appropriate assessment framework (including a scoping of risks and adaptation responses) which ultimately will act to underpin a more comp rehensive, participatory, and iterative assessment process for RMIT University.