Minnesota Options to Increase Climate Resilience in Buildings

In this report Georgetown Climate Center explores steps that Minnesota state agencies and the Minnesota Legislature can take to enable more building resilience to climate impacts at the local level, as well as some actions municipalities may already have authority to implement. Minnesota faces increased frequency and severity of flooding, and building and site design can either contribute to or help to mitigate the frequency and severity of this flooding.

Minnesota state building code prevents municipalities from adopting building codes that are “different” from the state code. This restricts municipalities from using the building code to prepare local buildings for the coming effects of climate change that pose the biggest threat to that municipality. Several state-level actions are described that could improve the options to increase building resilience at the local level as well as several municipal options currently available in Minnesota, including: 

  • The Department of Labor and Industry may be able to adopt a set of resilient building standards as a part of the state code, optional for municipalities.
  • The Minnesota Legislature could amend the authorizing statute for the state code to allow municipalities to have more control over the building code where climate change conditions warrant it. Several options exist:
    • Change the authorizing statute to allow municipalities to apply to the state for approval whenever they have unique circumstances, including climate change effects, that warrant more-restrictive building standards.
    • Grant municipalities the power to enact building standards that are more, but not less, restrictive than the state code.
    • Amend the code to allow municipalities to enact more-restrictive standards whenever climate conditions warrant them.

Municipalities currently have some options to encourage more resilient buildings, such as issuing best practices for improving building resiliency and using incentive-based tools to encourage more resilient buildings. A municipality can simply issue these best practices and encourage developers to follow them, or they can tie incentive programs into meeting specific green building standards to motivate developers and building managers. Municipalities can rely on national standards, standards put forth through a state program, or they can issue their own site-specific best practices. 


Publication Date: January 2015

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  • Best practice
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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