Adapting Building Design to the Effects of Climate Change

Sourced from Urban Land Magazine

Imagine that your recently completed sustainable waterfront development opens to fanfare, but the new glass storefronts facing the bay are soon boarded up in anticipation of a hurricane. Winds of 100 miles (161 km) per hour, strong rains, and tall waves soon will be pounding the new jewel in the crown of your portfolio. Where does the water go? How long will it take to reopen the facility if it is compromised by flooding or debris? And how long will it take for insurance claims to be processed?

Now consider the value that advanced design thinking would bring if that same facility had integrated hurricane shutters, flood drains, cisterns, or any of the countless resilient design strategies available to a project team. With the right mix, that same property might be open for business within days instead of months, with fewer insurance claims, and filled with occupants breathing a collective sigh of relief. Those who have any interest in the property and in the community would be more secure, and commerce would be more quickly restored to normal.

Disastrous scenarios and the nagging “what ifs” that accompany them are recent reality for Texas, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, and California. Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, testified before the U.S. Congress earlier this year that an estimated 47 million people—15 to 16 percent of the U.S. population—were asked to shelter in place, forced to evacuate, or faced with losing their homes because of last year’s storms, floods, and wildfires. Developers and designers together must anticipate the devastating effects of the “once-in-a-100-years event” that in 2017 all happened within a matter of months. We must respond to a changing climate that makes these events more frequent and poses a greater risk to everyone on the planet.

The insurer Munich Re estimates that over the past 30 years, weather-related catastrophes cost more than $1 trillion in North America alone—an average of more than $34 billion per year. Insured losses increased from $9 billion in the 1980s to $36 billion in the 2000s. The Rockefeller Foundation estimates that it costs 50 percent more to build back after a disaster or crisis than it does to build from the start to withstand the shock. Many insurers, including Munich Re and Lloyds, now consider resilient design when assessing premiums. And business continuity is strengthened in buildings and developments that mitigate climatic hazard. Less time spent “bouncing back” means more time conducting business as usual.

Click here to read the full article