The public and private sector met at a forum in D.C. on Sept. 14 to discuss community resilience in the face of climate change.

At a Washington, D.C. forum hosted by The Hill and Zurich Insurance Group on Sept. 14, representatives from the private sector joined members of Congress and federal agency officials to discuss community resilience to extreme weather and climate change. The forum, "Preparing for the Next Disaster: A Policy Discussion on Community Resilience," focused on the challenges communities face in increasing resilience and the role of public and private sector organizations in supporting them.

Dennis Kerrigan, Chief Legal Officer with Zurich North America, discussed his corporation’s efforts to enhance community resilience before the onset of a natural disaster. Zurich’s global flood resilience program, which was launched in 2013, has invested more than $50 million in community investment to date, directly helping 125,000 people in flood-prone communities worldwide.

Kerrigan noted that for every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation, five dollars is saved in future potential losses, and so it is crucial to “build back better” to enhance resilience following a disaster. To Zurich, said Kerrigan, resilience “makes economic sense.”

Zurich’s Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) overview took a look at the 2015 floods in South Carolina. The report offered some lessons learned following flood disasters and explored what can be done to ensure communities are more resilient going forward. Among the recommended mitigation tactics are investment in green infrastructure and related incentive programs. The report specifically mentions one eco-district that is currently using incentives to increase resilience, including pursuing LEED® certification for its buildings. This comes in addition to the area’s incorporation of green spaces and green roofs and its adoption of best practices for storm water management—all of which are sustainable practices that are rewarded within the LEED rating system.

Zurich is also leading by example. Its new North America headquarters building, set to officially open this fall, has achieved LEED Platinum. Located in Schaumburg, Illinois, the project boasts multiple green roofs totaling more than one acre, infrastructure for electric and low-emission vehicles and more than 13 acres of native plantings throughout its site. 

Here at USGBC®, we are continuing to ramp up our support for community solutions to increase resilience in the changing climate. Strategies enhancing resilience, as well as climate mitigation, are embraced throughout LEED and SITES®. Our free LEED Climate Resilience Screening Tool can be used by project teams and at the community planning scale to learn help target built environment strategies. Green infrastructure is one core area for such strategies; check out our current series exploring the links between green infrastructure and climate. Also, take a look at the Resilient Cities Report for local leaders’ perspectives.