Sustainability is top of mind for many these days, but what about resiliency? How does it factor into what we are doing in our own homes and even in our own communities? A new framework just might change how we move forward in the days ahead.
In late September, the White House Climate Policy Office hosted the Summit on Building Climate Resilient Communities and as a result the unveiling of the new National Climate Resilience Framework, which aims to build more resilient communities—particularly as severe weather events are on the rise.
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin., the United States has sustained 372 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damage and costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. In 2023 (as of October 10), there have been 24 confirmed weather or climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each to affect United States. This includes droughts, floodings, severe storms, tropical cyclones, wildfire, and unusual winter storms.
The good news is the new framework includes wide-ranging suggestions and opportunities for action, including partnerships between federal agencies and standards development organizations such as the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers). The objective here is to improve the resilience of buildings and other infrastructure.
In the hopes of getting a better understanding, let’s take a deeper look at just one example in this column today. ASCE’s widely adopted standard, ASCE 7-22, is the primary reference of structural design requirements in all U.S. building codes and is updated every six years to reflect the latest data and trends presented by an ever-changing climate.
Its most recent update, published in 2022, includes updates to environmental hazards used for building design including new wind speeds along the hurricane coastline, a new chapter for tornado loads, and an update to its chapter on flood loads—calling for structures to be built to withstand 500-year floods rather than the previous standard of 100-year flood mitigation.
We see partnerships are also key here, as ASCE recently linked up with the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin.). The aim here is to make sure federal climate data, observations, and projections are providing the civil engineering community with all the information it needs to plan, design, and operate climate-resilient and sustainable infrastructure and housing. The new framework cites incorporating climate information into engineering and architectural standards and planning practice as a key action needed to improve nationwide climate resilience.
Even with the availability of standards such as ASCE 7-22, we have not seen widespread adoption yet, which is why the new White House framework is calling for ensuring federal funding requires climate-resilient infrastructure investments by encouraging government at all levels to adopt consensus-based engineering standards.
Certainly, this is only the first step to more climate-resilient communities. We all need to come together to ensure our towns can withstand the elements we face. Now is the time to build better homes and infrastructure.
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