How to Improve Buildings’ Climate Change Preparedness
Commercial building owners can take steps to increase their climate change resilience by evaluating crucial systems, storm-resistant structure and landscape design, backup power options, and disaster preparedness protocols for facilities staff, says a report by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC).
Building Resilience in Boston: “Best Practices” for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience for Existing Buildings aims to help property owners reduce their vulnerability to severe storms and sea level rise. It was commissioned by the GRC and the city of Boston, and developed for the BSA and the Boston Foundation for Architecture by Linnean Solutions, Built Environment Coalition and the Resilient Design Institute.
Intended to provide property owners, the architectural community and city officials — both in Boston and beyond — with a better understanding of measures they can incorporate for more durable and resilient buildings, the report includes best practices for building sites, structure, enclosure, systems, operations and occupant usage.
It also contains a review of Boston’s vulnerabilities and climate preparedness initiatives, as well as resources and efforts underway in other US and international cities and federal governments, such as New York City and Toronto. For example, post Hurricane Sandy New York City proposed an investment program to upgrade its buildings to withstand a similar storm.
California implemented major code and standard changes, requiring existing building retrofit for seismic loads after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Similarly, Florida updated its building performance requirements for hurricane loads after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The report cites a 2006 study that found each dollar invested in mitigation provides more than $4 of benefits. It says a strategy to add trees on the property to increase shading, for example, also reduces stormwater flow, lowers ambient temperatures, lessens wind impacts and improves air quality and quality of life.
The report also discusses ways in which Boston can build on its climate preparedness efforts such as convening communities at the neighborhood level to define specific vulnerabilities; developing the capacity of local organizations to create and implement effective resilience plans; expand the coordination of local, state, federal, public, and private efforts; and further leverage related local activities currently underway.
Extreme weather events, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and other global warming-related changes will increasingly affect businesses and how they operate, according to a report released last month by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Photo Credit: John Gravelin, Linnean Solutions
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