The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and an array of national building industry leaders gathered this week at the White House’s national conference on resilient building codes to discuss the economic and community benefits of resilient design and to consider actions that the federal government and the private sector can take to advance resilience in the built environment.

“While we can do our best to slow the increase in climate volatility, we also have to focus on the fact that our homes, buildings, campuses and communities must ultimately withstand the forces of nature,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “A focus on resiliency is a necessary companion to sustainable thinking and strategies in real estate and urban development.”

On the heels of the White House’s Climate Action Summit, where the President invited key climate actors from across the country and around the globe to make tangible progress on the implementation of the recent Paris Agreement at COP 21, this week’s summit also called on participating organizations to pledge to continue and expand their work on resilience in the context of a changing climate.

One of the speakers, Kenneth Kunkel, national oceanic and atmospheric administration’s research professor at North Carolina State University, spoke about the usefulness of historical climate data for evaluating future risk exposure of buildings in a world with a changing climate.

“We can say with virtual certainty that current design values based solely on historical data are underestimates of the actual future risk,” he said. A 2011 research paper co-published by USGBC and the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning highlighted similar conclusions, pointing to LEED as a useful framework for addressing climate mitigation and adaptation in the built environment.

“The impacts of climate change—including extreme weather, flood and drought—pose significant challenges for buildings, many of which were not built to withstand the future impacts of climate change,” read the White House announcement about the conference. “To address these challenges, architects, engineers and developers in both the public and private sectors are taking steps to design buildings that go beyond minimum life-safety requirements and incorporate the principles of resilient design.”

Since USGBC’s early work to respond to building and community design issues posed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, USGBC has steadily increased its focus on resilience. Recently, USGBC co-hosted a Resilient Cities Summit, launched a set of resilience-focused pilot credits into USGBC’s LEED green building program and worked with its partner organization GBCI, to further a suite of new rating systems that offer actionable assessment tools that can help a broad set of players in buildings, landscapes and infrastructure address enhanced resilience.

At the conference, USGBC issued the following commitment:

USGBC commits to actively engaging through its partnership in Resilient Communities for America (RC4A) and additional efforts to promote resilient building codes in communities across the country. Through dialogues among industry and public sector leaders, release of groundbreaking research and hosting public events, RC4A we will shed light on opportunities to advance resilience and long-term performance in codes, standards and other policies and publicize community leadership in these areas.

USGBC also commits to develop and promote the International Green Construction Code, powered by Standard 189.1, a continually evolving and improving code overlay for jurisdictions seeking to adopt deeper sustainability and climate resilience measures into their building codes. USGBC also commits to co-hosting a convening of leading mayors around resilience strategies, including codes, to be held in 2016 or early 2017. We also commit to highlighting best practice for codes and standards to support deployment of demand response strategies facilitating resilience at the micro-grid scale.

We will engage in an expansion of the conversation around resilience and codes to water and landscape elements, to consider how codes in drought areas can support appropriate vegetation strategies that have net ecosystem benefits. Lastly, USGBC commits to posting and promoting resources relating to climate resilient design and policy on its website and its various communications channels.

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