About Adria Boynton

Harvard University Sinclair Kennedy Traveling Fellow

United States

Climate change will transform built and natural environments. Some cities face threats that include coastal flooding, increased precipitation, and rising temperatures (Boston Research Advisory Group 2016, 34-38). Preparing today’s buildings for tomorrow’s risks will require resilient design strategies that allow for gradual adaptation, provide multiple benefits, and connect to the surrounding neighborhood.

No strategy can guarantee total protection from harm but building flexibility into design represents a reasonable approach to resilience. Projects should prepare for adaptation over time, which could include allowing space for future adjustments to connect the building to elevated sidewalks, roads, and utilities. For example, designing a structure with generous first-floor ceiling heights would leave room to raise that floor later, to connect to infrastructure that may need to be elevated in response to future flood projections.

Resiliency strategies can also have multiple benefits. For example, a public park can help absorb flooding while also helping to mitigate the urban heat island effect. Some approaches to adaptation can also be cost effective. For example, a balanced cut and fill strategy uses displaced soils on-site to elevate grade or cap contamination. Additionally, some strategies can help a project achieve LEED accreditation (NYC Mayor's Office of Recovery & Resiliency 2017, 12), and projects that assess and address their vulnerability can take advantage of three LEED pilot credits on resilient design (Wilson 2015).

Projects should consider their surrounding context when planning for future conditions. When possible, a building or site’s design should connect to adjacent resiliency strategies. Projects that link to a nearby building’s living shoreline or berm will be better prepared to protect both their investment and the surrounding neighborhood.

Reference List:

Boston Research Advisory Group. 2016. Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Projections for Boston. Boston: City of Boston.

NYC Mayor's Office of Recovery & Resiliency. 2017. Preliminary Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines: Author.

Wilson, Alex. 2015. "LEED Pilot Credits on Resilient Design Adopted." Resilient Design Institute., last modified November 2015, accessed June, 2017, http://www.resilientdesign.org/leed-pilot-credits-on-resilient-design-adopted/.