Building resilience: Adapting to a changing climate (USGBC Northern California) | U.S. Green Building Council
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DNV GL shares its expertise on building with resilience.

In this series, speakers from USGBC Northern California’s GreenerBuilder conference, held July 13, 2017 at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, share insights from their sessions. Interested in supporting GreenerBuilder 2018 as an event sponsor or exhibitor? Contact Brenden McEneaney.

Climate change is real and the impacts are here. In the last five years alone, the U.S. faced climate disasters causing $240 billion in CPI-adjusted losses. While new buildings are being constructed to handle the rise in extreme weather events, the existing building stock is left vulnerable to changing climate conditions. A study by the Multihazard Mitigation Council shows that every dollar invested in mitigation efforts can save an average of four dollars in damages.

Beyond the value of avoided risk, resilient buildings provide many benefits that increase their value to both owners and tenants. Resilient buildings often have:

  • Less risk to business continuity due to reduced downtime
  • Potential for lower insurance premiums
  • Reduced operating expenses resulting from energy efficiency improvements
  • Improved occupant comfort and safety

In addition to owner and tenant benefits, resilient buildings can add value to the community by serving as a place of refuge during an emergency. Although investing in resilience and adaptation can be a daunting task, it’s a worthwhile effort.

DNV GL’s Building Resilience Assessment tool, B-READY, helps building owners and property managers translate climate-related risks into actionable resilience strategies. The resilience assessment first looks at the frequency and intensity of climate-related events at the building site, then how those events will impact the building systems and the people within the building.

Once the risk to the building is determined, the capacity of the building is assessed. The capacity is the ability of the building to withstand the impacts from the climate-related events and continue functioning. To help building owners prioritize their investments, each measure is assigned a "Magnitude of Impact" rating based on the relative importance of that measure. Utilizing the hazard frequency and intensity, magnitude of impact and building capacity, a resilience index and customized recommendations are produced.

When it comes to retrofits, resilience isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. Certain retrofits will make more sense in some buildings than others, which is why understanding the building’s characteristics in relation to climate hazards can help building owners prioritize their investments. When considering the costs and benefits of resilience measures, three-year simple payback isn’t the best way to assess payback. Some measures may have a longer simple payback, but offer significant benefits and long-term risk-avoidance. Bundling measures together can help offset the longer payback of some of these measures.

In addition to choosing the right approach for financial analysis, framing is key. When trying to convince others to act on resilience and mitigation, understanding their needs, values and mindset can help you frame the suggested retrofits in most persuasive way, whether that be risk avoidance, sustainability, energy efficiency or cost savings. In the end, it’s all for the same mission: creating safer and more sustainable buildings that will weather the storm. 

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