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USGBC Adopts Resilient Design Standard to Adapt Buildings, Neighborhoods to Changing Climate

Image credit: Paul/Unsplash

While the LEED rating system has faced criticism for its narrow scope, hefty price tag and preference for context-ignorant cleantech, a new resilient construction standard developed by global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting and Eaton Corporation could prove to be a critical tool in helping city planners, architects, developers, governments and businesses design buildings, neighborhoods and buildings better equipped to deal with the challenges of climate change.

The RELi standard has been adopted by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and will become a global rating system under the organization’s rubric, similar to but independent from LEED and will be managed and operationalized by the USGBC and the Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI).

“The increasing frequency of dramatic events has brought an even greater urgency to create buildings and communities that are better adapted to a changing climate and better able to bounce back from disturbances and interruptions,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI. “We are committed to scaling RELi to become a national and international rating system managed by USGBC and its partner Green Business Certification, Inc.”

RELi includes a robust integrative process, acute hazard preparation and adaptation along with chronic risk mitigation at the building and neighborhood scale. Similar to LEED, it operates on a point-based system, awarding points for various credits across multiple categories. While it shares many LEED prerequisites and credits for sustainability, RELi introduces a comprehensive series of new criteria focused on environmental, social and economic considerations for resilience, such as Fundamental Access to First Aid, Emergency Supplies, Water, Food, and Communications; Adaptive Design for Extreme Rain, Sea Rise, Storm Surge and Extreme Weather, Events and Hazards; Develop or Expand Local Skills, Capabilities and Long-Term Employment; and Provide for Social Equity and Edible Landscaping, Urban Agriculture and Resilient Food Production.

Resilience planning must be thorough. It must consider all of the ripple effects — what we call ‘cascading consequences’ — of shocks and stressors,” said Janice Barnes, Global Resilience Director and Co-Director of the Resilience Research Lab at Perkins+Will. “Our communities, our neighborhoods and our buildings are all interconnected. If an electric sub-station miles away from your building gets flooded by an extreme rain event, you could experience a power outage. If your local economy is weakened by globalization, this could impact your financial stability, access to services and health and wellbeing. The comprehensive nature of RELi is a response to this, allowing for hazard preparation and adaptation, as well as chronic risk mitigation.”

The standard is already being piloted across the US in Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas. Projects include the Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, OK and the Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, TX, the latter of which withstood Hurricane Harvey with little to no damage. Once complete, the pilot projects will help refine the certification component of the standard and establish RELi’s point system, scoring and certification levels.


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