Prepare Buildings To Withstand Climate Change, Says Boston Study

August 9, 2013 By Paul Nastu

Extreme weather impactWith the impact of climate change increasing in volume, building owners need to prepare for rising sea levels and extreme weather by boosting resilience, having a plan in place for disaster preparedness and back-up power options, says a study commissioned by the the City of Boston.

The study, Building Resilience in Boston: “Best Practices” for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience for Existing Buildings, is intended as a resource for Bostonians and building owners elsewhere, on measures they can take to create more durable, resilient buildings. It also analyzes Boston’s vulnerabilities and what other cities like New York and Toronto are doing.

As far as Boston is concerned, more than half of its residential buildings are old and were built before 1940, but commercial buildings witnessed a boom after 1960 and 25 million square feet of buildings were built between 1960 and 1998, the study observes. Boston’s main extreme weather hazards are flooding due to rain and coastal storm surges, severe storms and extreme temperatures. A common side effect of extreme weather is the loss of critical infrastructure services, including energy, water, waste water, transportation and communications.

The report suggests paying attention to the localities where there is a concentration of vulnerable populations — senior citizens, low-income, disabled — especially if they are close to coastal areas. In boosting the resilience of buildings, it offers tips such as increasing the shading, to reduce wind impact, lower ambient temperature and decrease storm water flow.

It concludes that Boston could also draw lessons from measures taken by other cities for disaster preparedness and pull together community stakeholders to discuss prioritizing resilience strategies.

As a measure of how important climate change resilience has become, in June, President Obama’s climate change speech focused quite a bit on preparing for flooding and severe weather, not just on carbon reduction measures. His climate change plan lays out steps to prepare for the impact, which resonate with the Boston report’s findings.

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