Green Building and Climate Resilience: Understanding Impacts and Preparing for Changing Conditions

Prepared by the U.S. Green Building Council, this report summarizes research on projected climate change impacts in the built environment at various scales - regional, neighborhood, and site or building. Predicted climate changes are reported by region, with a range of future characteristics in the categories of temperature, precipitation, coastlines, air quality, pests, and fires. The report also provides strategies for enhancing resilience in buildings, which focus on how green building professionals can utilize adaptation strategies in the built environment.  

The report describes a four step process for integrating climate adaptation strategies into a building project: 

  1. Understand the regional impacts of climate change
  2. Modify project performance goals with respect to the regional impacts
  3. Determine the range of effects on the local build environment
  4. Select a combination of no-regrets and resilient adaptation strategies

Appendix C provides six adaptation strategies to respond to these impacts. The report classifies these strategies as either “no regrets” strategies that will generate social and/or economic benefits regardless of changes in climate, or as “resilient” strategies that will allow structures to respond to increased precipitation or flooding. 

Each strategy category listed below, includes details on the objective, description, regional priority, primary/secondary impact, measured effect of strategy, and whether it is a no-regrets or resilience strategy. The report also lists the strategy’s duration, associated LEED credits, related strategies, and additional design resources.  

  • Envelope: Interior shading devices, exterior shading devices, high performance glazing, improved insulation systems, roof redesign, high albedo roofing, green roofs, enhanced roof access, ice dam resistant construction, class “A” roofing systems, design for increased wind, steeper low slope roofing, oversized roof drainage, oversized roof drainage, pitched roof systems, preventing flame/ember entry, eliminating eaves and gutters, pressure neutral rain screens, using flood resistive materials, noncombustible siding, tempered glazing, planning for pest expansion, hardened foundations, non-combustible decking, and more. 
  • Siting and Landscaping: Climate-appropriate landscaping, woody trees and shrubs, minimizing impervious surfaces, purposeful building orientation, retention ponds, infiltration galleries and French drains, bioswales, wetlands, solar zoning, high solar reflectance (Albedo) paving, covered or shaded parking, redundant transportation options, fire-safe landscaping, fire breaks, avoidance of flood plains, avoidance of storm surge zones, elevated first floors, and more.  
  • Heating, Cooling, and Lighting: Cross ventilation, thermal zoning, stack ventilation, mixed-mode ventilation, ceiling fans, thermal energy storage, passive solar design, increased thermal mass, evaporative cooling towers, earth cooling/sheltering, daylighting, and high efficacy egress lighting. 
  • Water and Waste: greywater system rough out, high efficiency fixtures, HVAC condensate capture, solar domestic water heating, insulated water systems, reclaimed water use, sewage backflow prevention, and water catchment systems and cisterns. 
  • Equipment: Variable frequency drives, energy management systems, reduced friction losses, residential sprinkler systems, elevator system redesign, backup systems, system redundancy, M.E.P equipment pads/rooms, and insulated refrigeration equipment. 
  • Process and Operation: Energy modeling, new building operations manuals, flexible dress codes and scheduling, retro - commissioning, establishing climate change point positions in each organization, creating areas of refuge within each building, and emergency management planning. 


This report was produced by the University of Michigan and the U.S. Green Building Council, with support from the University of Oregon. 


Publication Date: 2011

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Green Building Council
  • University of Michigan


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice


Go To Resource