Boston Redevelopment Authority Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Guidelines, Checklist

In November 2013, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) adopted new guidelines to address climate change impacts on development projects. The Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Guidelines are an addition to Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code requiring a checklist to be completed and approved before the BRA authorizes Final Design Approval and/or Article 80 documents. Article 80 applies to "large projects" (affecting greater than 50,000 square feet) and areas subject to planned development review requirements. In October, 2017 the Guidelines and Checklist were updated based upon recommendations from the Boston Research Advisory Group, Climate Ready Boston and Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Carbon Neutral 2050 goal. 

The updated Guidelines help analyze, identify, and address climatic and environmental changes and their effects on a project’s environmental impacts, including the survivability, integrity, and safety of the project and its inhabitants over the lifetime of a project.

The Guidelines require developers to:

“Analyze project impacts on the surrounding environment that are attributable to forecasted climate conditions over the full duration of the expected life of the project. Utilizing the best available science, identify changes in the climate and environment and how such changes will affect the project’s environmental impacts including the survivability, integrity and safety of the project and its inhabitants.

Climate change conditions may include, but not be limited to, sea-level rise, higher maximum and mean temperatures, more frequent and longer extreme heat events, more frequent and longer droughts, more sever freezing rain and heavy rainfall events, and increased wind gusts. Include analysis of secondary and cascading impacts including more frequent and longer interruptions of utility services including electrical, gas, and telecommunication systems, and disruptions of transportation systems and network.”

  • Extreme Heat: Development projects must develop adaptation strategies to address extreme heat based upon projections that annual average temperatures could rise to 56 degrees F by the end of the century (compared to current average of 46 degrees) and that the city may see 90 days above 90 degrees F (compared to 10 days currently). The Guidelines recommend passive strategies such as altering the building siting and orientation, passive cooling solutions by altering the building envelope and fenestration (the arrangement of windows and doors, or openings, on a building) over mechanical solutions. Where mechanical solutions are used they must be designed to account for future conditions without reducing the efficiency of the installed system.
  • Extreme Precipitation: New buildings must also be designed to account for increases in heavy rain fall events with on-site stormwater retention that can manage 6 inches of rain in 24 hour period (a 10-year rainfall event). Recommended strategies include rainwater harvesting, stormwater retention, and infiltration strategies.
  • Sea-level rise: New buildings must also account for the 100-year storm with 40 inches of additional sea-level rise. Developers are also encouraged to consider higher sea-level rise scenarios based upon site-specific conditions, the project's location, future uses, and risk tolerances for the project. Recommended strategies include elevating the site and access routes, elevating building ground floors, dry and wet floodproofing, elevating critical building equipment and systems, and installing temporary flood barricades.

All future projects undergoing Article 80 review must now take the following steps with respect to the Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Guidelines:

1. Execute and submit an initial Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Checklist with the Project Notification Form filing. This checklist requires all projects to consider the impact of future climate changes over the expected life of the project, including extreme heat and weather, rising sea-levels, and any design or construction plans that will be used to mitigate adverse environmental impacts.

2. The strategies identified in the checklist must be incorporated into all relevant parts of the project, including transportation, infrastructure systems, environmental protection, urban design, landscape, sustainable development, historic resources, and tidelands.

3. Await comment from the Boston Interagency Green Building Committee (IGBC).

4. Submit an updated and final Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Checklist with written response to any comments by IGBC.  The final checklist and response must be submitted contemporaneously with the submission of the Final Design and Approval package.

In conjunction with the Resiliency Guidelines, Article 37 of the Zoning Code also requires that development projects used green building standards (adopted in 2007). Projects must meet LEED design standards to enhance the sustainability and efficiency of the building, including by incorporating renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in building design. Proposed projects can also comply with these provisions by earning Boston Green Building Credits; points can be earned for building improvements  in four categories:

  • Modern grid -  for distributed energy, combined heat and power systems that provides for 10 percent or more of total building energy use, including fuel cells and micro turbines.
  • Historic preservation - for projects that involve the renovation of historic assets.
  • Groundwater recharge - for projects that provide 50 percent or more groundwater recharge by capturing no less than 1.5 inches of rainfall on a site (or 1 inch in areas outside of Groundwater Conservation Districts)
  • Modern mobility - for projects that implement transportation demand management practices and improvements, such as car-sharing services, electric vehicle charging, bike storage, shuttle service to public transit stations, and onsite services (ATM, dry cleaning) to reduce need for short car trips, among other strategies to reduce congestion and traffic. The requirements differ based upon the types of uses that will be supported by the project (residential, commercial, hotel).

The Boston Environment Department developed a Climate Resiliency Design Reference Guide for New Developments to help developers comply with these requirements. 

The BRA's “Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Checklist for New Construction” can be found on the Boston Redevelopment Authority Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency homepage as a MS Word Document or online form.


Publication Date: November 2013, updated October 2017

Related Organizations:

  • Boston Redevelopment Authority

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