Enhancing Resilience of LEED and RELi projects through Climate Risk Analysis

Sean McMahon

USGBC defines resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” By making buildings more sustainable, durable and adaptable through the application of LEED and RELi, we can reduce communities’ vulnerability to short-term shocks, such as fires and floods, and ensure that they are better equipped for long-term stressors, such as economic dislocation and climate change.

Earlier this year, USGBC and GBCI outlined an expanded suite of programs and resources focused on improving building and community resilience in the face of climate risks. While governments and businesses focus on economic recovery, frequent and severe climate events threaten to interrupt progress. Key among the commitments outlined is a partnership with Coastal Risk Consulting and its RiskFootprint™ tool to provide high-quality climate risk analyses for buildings, communities and cities.

What is RiskFootprint?

RiskFootprint is an online environmental and climate risk assessment service that allows owners, developers, investors and lenders, as well as individuals, communities and governments, to

  • Identify properties that are particularly vulnerable to risks.
  • Determine if physical climate risks are concentrated in a portfolio, and what value is at risk.
  • Focus scarce resources on vulnerable sites for further risk assessments or management.

RiskFootprint provides both portfolio risk screening and property-level risk assessments against more than a dozen current and future environmental risk factors, such as wildfire, flooding, sea level rise, storm surge, drought, earthquakes and more.

RiskFootprint and LEED

LEED guides project teams to invest in climate adaptation strategies to enhance building and community resilience through strategies such as integrative design. RiskFootprint supports and informs the achievement of the LEED Resilient Design pilot credits, particularly:

  • Assessment and planning for resilience: RiskFootprint can help identify the potential high risks associated with natural hazards affecting the project site and building function.
  • Design for enhanced resilience: By identifying physical climate risks at a project location, RiskFootprint can inform design decisions required by IPpc99.

RiskFootprint portfolio-level spreadsheets and full RiskFootprint Reports are available within seconds for any property in the United States and Puerto Rico.

RiskFootprint and RELi

RELi is used by companies, developers, city planners and others to assess and plan for all the acute hazards that buildings and communities can face during unplanned events, prepare to mitigate these hazards, and design and construct buildings to maintain critical life-saving services in the face of extreme events. With strategies to mitigate these hazards and promote the design and construction of buildings to help maintain critical services in the event of extended loss of power, heat or water, RELi incentivizes the development of buildings that protect occupants, offer shelter and support to the local community, and enable business continuity, resulting in reduced economic and human impact of extreme weather events.

Understanding the probable impacts of climate on properties is fundamental to RELi. The very first requirement in the rating system (PA Req 1) is focused on short-term hazard preparedness and mitigation, which requires an understanding of the potential physical risks faced at the project location. Another credit (PA Credit 6) is focused on addressing long-term adaptability, diversity and redundancy. RiskFootprint Reports for the property and the surrounding market area provide project teams with a simple tool to provide comprehensive information to support the RELi certification processes.

Preparing for an uncertain future

For those who purchase, invest in or insure buildings, it’s critical to understand and prepare for the future that the building—and more important, the people in that building—are likely to experience. In a 2019 report, a group of more than 200 of the world’s largest companies valued climate risks to their businesses at almost $1 trillion—with many likely to occur within the next five years. This year alone in the U.S., there have been 16 disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each.

We want and need buildings to be prepared for a range of uncertain futures. One of the ways we can help is to foster a better understanding of the probable impacts of climate change. Data and technology provide clarity on the hazards to which assets are most likely to be exposed. LEED and RELi, in conjunction with RiskFootprint risk assessment technology, help guide members of the green building community toward solutions to mitigate these risks, and to make their buildings safer, more sustainable and more resilient.

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