Resilient DC - A Strategy to Thrive in the Face of Change

In April 2019, Washington D.C. released its Resilient DC Plan as part of its participation in the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative. The Resilient DC plan presents strategies to help the District address three-main drivers of change: economic and population growth, climate change, and technological transformations. It is designed to help the District manage threats from extreme natural and manmade disasters (including extreme heat, flooding, infrastructure failure, and terrorist or cyber attacks) and reduce chronic stressors that challenge the city on an everyday basis (including lack of affordable housing, economic inequality, educational opportunity gaps, and aging infrastructure). To address these issues, the resilience strategy offers 68 specific short-, medium-, and long-term initiatives for “future-proofing” DC across four goals: Inclusive Growth, Smarter DC, Climate Action, and Safe and Health Washingtonians; and two focus areas: Resilient Rivers and Equity in Governance.

This resource was featured in the May 10, 2019, ASAP Newsletter.

"DC is boldly moving their resilience strategy forward. After two years of iterative engagement with residents, the capital city’s unique approach includes one of our favorite topics: individual resilience! Check out the Resilient DC report for the nitty gritty on resilience in the nation’s capital city."


The Climate Action goal focuses on preparedness and building resilience to climate change, articulating a vision of making the city climate resilient and carbon neutral by 2050. The primary climate impacts identified for the region include heat emergencies, extreme storms, and tidal river flooding. The plan notes that as a delta city, built on the banks of two tidal rivers - the Potomac and the Anacostia, Washington D.C. faces flooding from both sea level rise and heavy rains that will be made more frequent and intense by climate change. Initiatives under the Climate Action Goal include improving understanding of flood risk and implementing built and nature-based approaches including green infrastructure to improve resilience. 

The following Objective and Strategies in the plan are aimed at enhancing the District's climate resilience:

  • Objective 2.1 - Incorporate climate projections into land use, building regulations and capital investmentrequire new buildings to be “climate-ready” by 2032; retrofit or remove all at-risk buildings by 2050; invest in climate-ready infrastructure that provides multiple benefits; and design climate-ready neighborhoods. 
  • Objective 2.2 - Measure and track climate risk and adaptation progress: create a tool for residents; establish a District-wide adaptation policy, guidance and procedures; and create a regional climate adaptation effort. A District-wide adaptation policy would require District Government agencies to conduct vulnerability assessments that identify the impact of climate change on agency mission, programs, and operations - and follow with climate adaptation plans.
  • Objective 2.3 - Increase resilience to climate change at the neighborhood and household level: launch a “data-driven campaign to significantly reduce the urban heat island,” launch resilience hubs and a resilience corps program, increase affordability and adoption of flood insurance, and pilots microgrids. Resilience hubs are design to provide refuge, resources, information and services during a disaster event while also providing everyday community benefits. A Resilience Corps program would pay neighborhood captains to promote awareness of climate adaptation and build networks of volunteers to promote existing programs to lower risks to vulnerable populations.
  • Objective 2.4 - Invest in Climate Action: increase energy efficiency of buildings, set up DC Green Bank, increase renewable energy investments, and "pilot new financial tools and products for resilience" - such as resilience bonds, and green bonds.

DC’s Resilience Strategy is focused on social equality across all domains. In part it is designed to build partnerships and financing mechanisms, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of vulnerable populations. One of the four primary Goals - Inclusive Growth, outlines initiatives that will leverage economic and infrastructure development while counter-balancing growing inequality.

The District’s First Source program is designed to provide DC residents priority consideration for all new jobs created by municipal programs, yet many unemployed residents do not have the skills necessary to access such jobs. One of the initiatives of this strategy is to create a green building apprentice program to increase the number of local residents with the necessary skills to equally participate in DC’s development boom, while integrating climate resilience.


The Resilient Rivers program was also launched along with this strategy, to more sustainably incorporate DC’s waterways and protect the communities that live along them, many facing chronic flooding.

Publication Date: April 29, 2019

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Related Organizations:

  • District of Columbia


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  • Plans (other)

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