USGBC Joins National Leaders During Building Safety Month
Commits to continue focus on resilience
By Marisa Long
USGBC and an array of national building industry leaders gathered at the White House’s national conference on resilient building codes to discuss the economic and community benefits of resilient design and to consider actions that the federal government and the private sector can take to advance resilience in the built environment.
“While we can do our best to slow the increase in climate volatility, we also have to focus on the fact that our homes, buildings, campuses and communities must ultimately withstand the forces of nature,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “A focus on resiliency is a necessary companion to sustainable thinking and strategies in real estate and urban development.”
Senior administration officials from the White House, the U.S. Army, the Department of State and the Department of Housing and Urban Development joined mayors, scientists and industry leaders on panels highlighting opportunities for, and challenges to, institutionalizing resilience more comprehensively in buildings and infrastructure across the country.
On the heels of the White House’s 2016 Climate Action Summit, where the President invited key climate actors from across the country and around the globe to make tangible progress on the implementation of the recent Paris Agreement at COP21, this summit also called on participating organizations to pledge to continue and expand their work on resilience in the context of a changing climate.
One of the speakers, Kenneth Kunkel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research professor at North Carolina State University, spoke clearly about the usefulness of historical climate data for evaluating future risk exposure of buildings in a world with a changing climate. “We can say with virtual certainty that current design values based solely on historical data are underestimates of the actual future risk,” stated Kunkel. A 2011 research paper co-published by USGBC and the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning highlighted similar conclusions, pointing to LEED as a useful framework for addressing climate mitigation and adaptation in the built environment.
“The impacts of climate change—including extreme weather, flood and drought—pose significant challenges for buildings, many of which were not built to withstand the future impacts of climate change,” the White House announced. “To address these challenges, architects, engineers and developers in both the public and private sectors are taking steps to design buildings that go beyond minimum life-safety requirements and incorporate the principles of resilient design.”
Since USGBC’s early work to respond to building and community design issues posed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, USGBC has steadily increased its focus on resilience. Recently, USGBC co-hosted a Resilient Cities Summit, launched a set of resilience-focused pilot credits into USGBC’s LEED green building program, and worked with its partner organization GBCI, to further a suite of new rating systems that offer actionable assessment tools that can help a broad set of players in buildings, landscapes and infrastructure address enhanced resilience.
The resilience pilot credits in LEED are designed to ensure that a design team is aware of vulnerabilities and addresses the most significant risks in the project design, including functionality of the building in the event of long-term interruptions in power or heating fuel.
At the conference, USGBC issued the following commitment:
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) commits to actively engaging through its partnership in Resilient Communities for America (RC4A) and additional efforts to promote resilient building codes in communities across the country. Through dialogues among industry and public sector leaders, release of groundbreaking research and hosting public events, RC4A will shed light on opportunities to advance resilience and long-term performance in codes, standards and other policies, and publicize community leadership in these areas.A report released by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), titled “Preparing to Thrive,” also highlights USGBC’s recent adoption of new pilot credits into LEED that focus on resilient building design and planning.
USGBC also commits to develop and promote the International Green Construction Code, powered by Standard 189.1, a continually evolving and improving code overlay for jurisdictions seeking to adopt deeper sustainability and climate resilience measures into their building codes. USGBC commits to co-hosting a convening of leading mayors around resilience strategies, including codes, to be held in 2016 or early 2017. We also commit to highlighting best practice for codes and standards to support deployment of demand response strategies facilitating resilience at the micro-grid scale.
We will engage in an expansion of the conversation around resilience and codes to water and landscape elements, to consider how codes in drought areas can support appropriate vegetation strategies that have net ecosystem benefits. Lastly, USGBC commits to posting and promoting resources relating to climate resilient design and policy on usgbc.org and its various communications channels.
The National Institute of Building Sciences coordinated the event on behalf of the White House National Security Council Staff, the National Economic Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget.
For more information, view the White House fact sheet “Obama Administration Announces Public and Private Sector Efforts to Increase Community Resilience through Building Codes and Standards.”
About the Author
Marisa Long is the Communications Manager for the U.S. Green Building Council.