Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Engineering Department Manual - Climate Resilience Design Guidelines

The Engineering Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) produced the Climate Resilience Design Guidelines (guidelines) to ensure that new agency infrastructure and buildings are designed to account for projected changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea level.  PANYNJ project architects and engineers are to use the guidelines to assess the vulnerability of projects to future impacts and to address those impacts when designing port authority infrastructure and buildings. These guidelines were updated following Hurricane Sandy to improve infrastructure resilience to climate conditions and severe storms.

The guidelines are divided into two primary sections: climate resilience and flood resilience. The first section provides an overview of future climate conditions in the region and offers examples of how agency infrastructure could be modified to increase resilience to specific climate impacts such as:

  • modifying rail for expansion and contraction during periods of extreme heat;
  • adjusting pipe sizes to prepare for increases in precipitation; and
  • changing design elevations to ensure that structures can withstand higher flood levels during extreme storms from sea-level rise.

The guidelines rely on climate change projections produced for the New York City region by the New York City Panel on Climate Change (Panel).  PANYNJ uses the Panel’s mid-range and high-estimate projections to assess changes in air temperature, precipitation, and sea-level rise for the years 2020, 2050, 2080, and 2100. The guidelines also utilize the Panel’s projections for changes to extreme heat (number and duration of heat events), cold weather events, intense precipitation, and hurricanes for the years 2020, 2050, and 2080. The guidelines describe the temperature, precipitation, and sea-level changes for which infrastructure asset designs must account over their design lives:

  • a 6-inch rise in sea level by 2025, a 16-inch rise in 2055, and a 28-inch rise by 2085, as compared to a 2004 baseline;
  • an additional 11 days above 90°F per year in 2025 (29 total), and an additional 42 days above 90°F by 2085, with an increase in mean annual air temperature from 54°F (in 2000) to 61°F by 2085; and
  • increased mean annual precipitation of 55 inches by 2085, up from 50.1 inches in 2000 and more intense rain events (rainfall of greater than or equal to 2-inches per day).

The guidelines also describe ten specific steps that project engineers and architects must take to increase the flood resilience of assets and the criteria they must consider:

  1. Identify flood risks to project scope. Determine whether the project is within the 1% annual chance floodplain (or 100-year floodplain), consult hurricane SLOSH maps, consult any of the agency’s own flood modeling, and, for projects that have a design life extending past 2025, assess how sea-level rise will extend the floodplain to determine flood risks to the project.
  2. Determine the influence of any area or system-wide strategy. For example, if the project has perimeter flood protection, measures may not be needed to floodproof or elevate internal station components.
  3. Identify if project is part of an Emergency Plan or Enterprise Risk Plan and incorporate the project into those plans. For example, project managers should consider if the project is part of an evacuation plan or if it provides access to an emergency operations center.
  4. Review current codes to determine minimum flood protection or elevation levels, including New York City local laws and the 2014 Construction Codes.
  5. Determine funding source requirements and guidelines. Identify project-specific funding requirements or guidelines for projects receiving federal, state, or local funding.  Specific individuals should be contacted if the project is receiving FEMA or FTA Sandy funding.
  6. Identify critical infrastructure. Under the guidelines, PATH and vehicular tunnels, emergency generators, fire protection systems, aircraft fueling systems, and power distribution facilities are all considered “essential” and projects must be designed to flood protection requirements established by ASCE-24 for Category IV “essential structures.” These facilities must be elevated to at or above the 100-year base flood elevation plus 2 feet. 
  7. Determine life expectancy to determine the level of needed flood protection. PANYNJ produces a separate manual to help project designers determine the design life of specific assets (Engineering Management Service Division, “Asset Class Reference Manual” (Dec. 2011)).
  8. Determine flood protection level based upon anticipated sea-level rise, the design life and criticality of the asset, and code requirements. The guidelines provide a table to help determine flood protection levels for specific assets.  For example, non-critical assets with an expected 70 year design life must be elevated 48 inches above the 100-year flood elevation, and critical assets must be elevated 60 inches above the 100-year flood elevation.
  9. Perform a benefit cost analysis (BCA) to evaluate the benefits associated with investing in the mitigation strategy versus the costs of not making the investment over time. Projects with a total program cost greater than $10 million must complete a BCA; and projects of any size which are funded by FEMA and FTA may require a BCA.
  10. Establish flood resilience criteria. The project team should review all information produced by the nine preceding steps and agree upon an acceptable level of flood protection at a reasonable cost that must then be incorporated into the design of the project.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on January 28, 2016.


Publication Date: January 22, 2015

Related Organizations:

  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Agency guidance/policy

States Affected:


Go To Resource