Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool - Washington D.C.

In 2017, the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) launched the country’s first resilience tool to identify opportunities for protecting residents in multifamily affordable housing from heat waves, flooding, and other climate change impacts. The city already faces a tight housing market with significant shortages in affordable housing. Climate change is expected to only exacerbate this pressure by increasing the cost of maintaining comfortable homes in the summer and protecting households from flooding. The average temperatures in the city have reached record highs in recent years. Meanwhile, sea-level rise and more heavy rainfall are anticipated to increase flooding along D.C.’s two major tidally influenced rivers and tributaries, accompanied by inland flooding in areas with undersized stormwater systems. In order to help advance the goals of the city’s climate adaptation plan, DOEE worked with nonprofit partners to develop the Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool. The tool consists of a series of questionnaires that building owners can use to identify the building’s resilience to potential climate change impacts, examining characteristics like accessibility, emergency management plans, and electrical, mechanical, and plumbing equipment. Additional questionnaires explore the building’s energy and water efficiency, as well as solar and storage potential. Based on the outcome of the assessment, the tool provides additional recommendations for implementing resilience strategies at varying cost and scale. 

The District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) developed the Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool as a planning tool to improve the resilience of the city’s affordable housing through identifying climate vulnerabilities in properties. Like many cities across the nation, D.C. is experiencing an affordable housing crisis which has worsened due to the impacts of climate change. Flooding and extreme heat add increased utility and maintenance costs that can become untenable for significant portions of D.C. renters who are already cost-burdened (or those who pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent). More frequent incidences of electrical outages and flooding can cause physical damage to structures that require building retrofits or reconstruction. Consequently, access to climate-resilient affordable housing in the District is particularly critical to the city’s residents.

Assessment Tool and Activities

The Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool is a four-step process that helps owners identify measures for improving the climate resilience of housing properties in the District.1 The tool analyzes a housing property’s climate risks and identifies potential resilience and energy upgrades that can address those risks. The four steps of the process are summarized as: 

  1. The Preassessment – the property owner or manager completes a questionnaire that includes property details, existing building conditions, and planned upgrades.2
  2. The Interview – the on-site property manager or other staff participates in the interview to review the building’s history with weather-related damage, resilience goals of the residents or property owners, emergency preparedness plans, and insurance coverage.3
  3. Assessments – a trained professional conducts the assessments to evaluate the building’s vulnerability to climate change hazards, potential for energy and water savings, and ability to incorporate solar technology.
  4. Recommendations – the findings of each assessment are entered into an Excel spreadsheet that automatically generates a list of recommended resilience strategies at varying costs and scale.

Since 2017, DOEE and its nonprofit partners have tested the Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool on more than 20 low-income housing properties owned by the National Housing Trust that are facing high risks of climate change impacts.4 The most common recommendations that emerged from this process included elevating energy infrastructure to prevent damage from flooding, installing solar technology or heat reflecting roofs (cool roofs) to mitigate rising utility costs, and improving surface water and stormwater management on site to decrease the amount of flooding.

Since the pilot projects, DOEE has made the Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool available to the public and has provided its users with guidance on when and how to best utilize the tool. 

Partnerships and Funding 

The Resilience and Solar Assessment Tool was created through a partnership with DOEE and four nonprofit organizations – Enterprise Community Partners, New Ecology, the National Housing Trust (NHT), and the Clean Energy Group. 

 

Publication Date: 2017

Related Organizations:

  • District Department of Energy and the Environment (DDOE) - Washington DC

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Resource Types:

  • Tool (general)

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