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Climate Change: UM, USGBC Offer Info On Effect On Buildings

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The University of Michigan central campus.

The University of Michigan central campus.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning faculty and students, along with the U.S. Green Building Council, reviewed areas of climate change uncertainty, forecasted findings on anticipated climate change in the United States by region, and made recommendations based on the forecasts in a report released Thursday.

The report, “Green Building and Climate Resilience: Understanding the impacts of preparing for changing conditions,” was released at the National Press Club.

To act and advise as green building professionals, USGBC partnered with the Taubman College to research and document the probable impacts of climate change on the built environment and to incorporate appropriate adaptation strategies into practices so that the environments designed, built, and managed today will be suitable for a range of uncertain futures.

“While we should not give up our efforts to minimize climate change, it is clear that we should move very quickly to develop a strategy for adaptation as we face unprecedented environmental transformations,” said Taubman College Dean Monica Ponce de Leon. “How we design and construct our built environment must be at the center of a reconsideration of our future. This collaboration between the University of Michigan and USGBC is a significant contribution to what is now a growing body of research worldwide.”

Climate change requires the updating of the building professions’ codes, standards, and practices with the best available knowledge. Planning to adapt to the effects of climate change in the built environment involves first understanding how the regional climate is likely to change, outlined in the report.

The report summarized the most recent research on the likely impacts of climate change at various scales: regional, neighborhood, and site or building. The findings present a range of predicted future characteristics in the categories of temperature, precipitation, coastlines, air quality, pests, and fires. The report lists probable impacts so that design teams can set modified performance goals, diving deeper into project-specific changes at the building or neighborhood level, and selects strategies to increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of each project.

The report identifies synergies between green building and resiliency and advances firsts in the field, including:

* Examining the implications of climate change for green building and identifying opportunities for resilience through the design, construction, and operation of buildings and communities
* Analyzing how individual LEED credits support regional adaptation needs, such as enhanced water conservation in arid climates and water-sensitive regions
* Demonstrating how consideration of climate resilience in buildings can increase the likelihood of achieving performance goals throughout the lifetime of a project

“Every building is designed for a specific range of conditions, such as peak temperature, storm surge and average precipitation,” said Chris Pyke, USGBC vice president of research. “Climate change has the potential to undermine some of these assumptions and potentially increase risks to people and property. Fortunately, there are practical steps we can take to understand and prepare for the consequences of changing environmental conditions and reduce potential impacts. This can help green buildings meet and exceed expectations for comfort and performance long into the future.”

Added Larissa Larsen, associate professor at Taubman: “The partnership with USGBC allowed us to focus on areas of research strength, which includes research and synthesizing comprehensive data sets to create informed decisions and action related to all aspects of building. As planners with experience in building design and construction management, it is our role to help understand what climate change means for communities and the future.”

To access the report: www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=18538.

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