climate resilience

Resilience Design Standards – Another Option for Climate Adaptation

In the last few years, real estate property owners have started taking a closer look climate vulnerability of their properties and the cities where they conduct business. Grosvenor, one of the largest privately owned property business was curious enough to conduct their own study, titled “Grosvenor Report: Resilient Cities.” This study assesses the climate vulnerability and adaptability of the world’s 50 most important cities. Houston, in Grosvenor’s opinion, is one of those cities. For this study, an  adaptive capacity score and a vulnerability score was constructed. Cities were ranked based on how they score in each area. Unfortunately the City of Houston was not a top-performer. Overall it came in the top half, #22. Of the 11 US cities in the ranking, Houston came in last place, at #11.

most and least resilient city graph
Resilient Cities – Grosvenor Report

Further, the City and the State’s adaptive capacity is being tested on a more regular basis. NOAA’s Billion Dollar Weather and Climate Disaster study tells a rather alarming picture of how the state is being tested.

First, is the graphic that shows 6 very large weather events hitting the state in 2016.

Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters
NOAA – Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters

Second, we have a graph that shows the number of storms over several years. Most important to pay attention to is the black trend line.

TX Disasters
NOAA – Billion Dollar Climate Disasters

Finally, Texas is the reddest state and I am not talking politics. This map displays in a red gradient the number of billion dollar plus storm events over the time period 1980 to April 2017.

1980 2017 storm events NOAA
NOAA – Billion Dollar Climate Disasters

This is a problem. The cost of doing business in Houston and Texas in general are likely to see significant gains in the near term if trends continue. As mentioned in earlier posts, there is plenty evidence that it will. According to a 2014 ULI report, direct monetary losses as reported by reinsurance companies was over $150 billion in the last decade. It is anticipated that in some places monetary losses for buildings are likely to double which will increase insurance premiums and overall property operating costs. In many cases, real estate owners are looking to absorb these increasing premiums and allocate them out to tenants. This approach is not sustainable for the viability of the business or the community.

A potential solution, not a silver bullet, but part of the silver buckshot needed to deal with climate adaptation, is the adoption by cities of voluntary resilience standards. There are a lot of them and you can check them out in this 2017 Meister Consulting Report titled Voluntary Resilience Standards. The expectation of these standards is that by increasing the resilience of the built environment, the entire community’s resilience is improved. There are a very wide assortment of these standards dealing with new construction and remodels, different building sectors and resilience against certain natural disaster and man-made disaster events. Similar to what the City of Houston did with the LEED process in Houston during the Mayor White administration, it should consider leading by example with resilience standards, particularly since we are dealing largely with critical infrastructure.


Published by

Gavin Dillingham

Program Director for Clean Energy Policy at HARC a sustainability research institute in The Woodlands, TX. Work on climate adaptation and investment strategies for resilient infrastructure.

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