Washington D.C.

Climate change adaptation on U.S. code agenda

Friday, May 13, 2016

Prominent real estate organizations in the United States are supporting efforts to respond to climate risk through building codes and standards. Industry leaders in built environment technology, research and advocacy joined with government officials at a special conference hosted by the U.S. White House earlier this week to explore potential regulatory and design guidance tools to promote resilience.

“The built environment industry strives to design, construct and operate buildings to withstand both natural and manmade hazards. We must use the knowledge gleaned from disasters like the recent earthquake in Kumamoto, Japan, Superstorm Sandy, flooding in India and others, as well as predictions of the effects of climate change, to our advantage to save lives and infrastructure in the future,” says David Underwood, president of ASHRAE, one of the participating industry and professional associations and a founding member of the Resilience Building Coalition.

Discussion focused on the role codes and standards could play in assuring that buildings and infrastructure can better withstand increasingly volatile and numerous extreme weather events, and that communities have plans, resources and training to respond. Accordingly, resilience contemplates building and infrastructure performance during an event, when structural and material strength and adaptability are paramount, and in the aftermath of an event, when operational contingencies, such as the ability to function with reduced or no power, take precedence.

U.S. government agencies represented at the conference outlined a range of initiatives related to code development, risk assessment and capacity building to be launched in the coming months. Private sector delegates pledged to draw on the multidisciplinary expertise of their own memberships — including: building owners and managers; construction and design professionals; planners; skilled trades; underwriters; and specialists in life safety, energy management, construction materials, code development and quality assurance — to develop, test and advance climate change adaptation measures.

“A focus on resiliency is a necessary companion to sustainable thinking and strategies in real estate and urban development,” observes Rick Fedrizzi, chief executive officer and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Setting the context for the White House conference, May has been declared National Building Safety Month in the U.S.. “Maintaining the safety and resilience of our homes and buildings is imperative. By using disaster-resistant building codes and standards, resilient construction materials and safe performance-based design methods, we can safeguard the workplaces, houses, schools and other facilities that provide us with space to grow, live and learn,” President Barack Obama said in making the declaration.

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