Massachusetts Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool

On April 21, 2021, the State of Massachusetts, under the Governor Charlie Baker Administration, launched the Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool, an online platform that enables state and local governments to assess climate change considerations when designing and siting development and infrastructure projects. Specifically, the tool offers guidance for state-funded and other projects by creating project-specific climate vulnerability assessments and providing general guidance for ways that the state and local governments can consider making a project more climate resilient. The tool was created to help the state implement its State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan and is currently in beta form. 

The tool’s online homepage organizes the tool into three parts: 

  1. A preliminary climate change exposure and risk rating;
  2. Recommended climate resilience design standards for projects with physical assets; and,
  3. Guidelines with best practices to support implementation.

For the first and second parts, the tool requires users to fill out information and answer questions about a specific project. Then, the tool creates a project-specific report that details the climate exposure and a risk rating for that project. It also develops recommended climate resilience design standards tailored to the specific project. The tool considers a project’s location, among other factors, to develop the report. 

For the third part, the tool offers general design guidelines that the state and local governments can take into account while considering the tool’s recommended project-specific standards. It is important to note that these guidelines contain general climate resilience principles applicable regardless of a project’s characteristics and the climate hazards it may face. As such, project proponents will need to evaluate how these general guidelines can be adapted and modified for the specifics of individual projects. This part of the tool also includes guidance on climate adaptation considerations a project should incorporate with examples of best practices. To illustrate, one adaptation guideline is that a project should be “design[ed] for incremental change” and includes an example of a Massachusetts project that was designed with this climate adaptation consideration. The tool includes optional forms/project checklists users can fill out to help facilitate their project’s decisionmaking process while implementing the recommended general design guidelines. For example, the form for the climate adaptation guidelines states:

The Flexible Adaptation Pathways and Guidelines is one form in a series (that also includes the Site Suitability Form and Regional Coordination Form) that accompany and supplement the Climate Resilience Design Standards and Guidelines process. This optional form serves to document additional project information and encourage consideration of the Climate Resilience Design Guidelines in project planning and design. 

The tool also provides users with project forms they can fill out if the online tool is inaccessible, a glossary, responses to specific questions received during stakeholder outreach, a tool user guide, and a tool training video. 

In 2018, Massachusetts launched its State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan. The Resilient MA Action Team created the tool with the intention of “implementing priority actions” from the plan. The Resilient MA Action Team is an interagency body that is implementing the state’s plan and increasing the state’s overall resilience. The tool is intended to be used primarily to assess state-funded projects, including through the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness or “MVP”  grant program. However, the state recognizes that the tool can also be used by state agencies and local governments for other types of development and infrastructure projects.

Publication Date: April 21, 2021

Related Organizations:

  • Resilient MA Action Team

Related Resources:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Tool (general)

States Affected:

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