Smart Growth Fixes for Climate Adaptation and Resilience: Changing Land Use and Building Codes and Policies to Prepare for Climate Change

This report focuses on ways that local governments can prepare for climate change impacts through land use and building policies. The report focuses on smart growth strategies that offer multiple benefits beyond climate preparedness including cost-savings, energy efficiency, increasing transportation options, and building economic opportunities. The strategies presented in the report are categorized as modest adjustments, major modifications, and wholesale changes, in order to help local governments determine which options are most appropriate for their own community.

Following an introduction, the report is organized into several chapters:

Chapter 2 discusses barriers to adaptation and provides an overview of the legal consideration a community should consider before moving forward. Legal considerations include state or federal preemption laws, takings considerations, and Americans with Disabilities Act considerations.

This report includes a variety of strategies that are meant to benefit those who are least able to adapt to climate change. This includes designating cooling centers in particularly vulnerable areas, developing an outreach plan to better involve vulnerable populations, and finding trusted messengers who are better able to reach vulnerable populations. It also references "equity and empowerment objectives" that are part of the STAR Community Rating System.


Chapter 3 
discusses smart growth strategies that help adapt to multiple climate change impacts. Modest adjustments include siting new municipal buildings in locations that are accessible to people they serve so that they can be reached by foot or bike. Major modifications include adopting flexible zoning to cope with changing climate conditions. Wholesale changes include adopting a post-disaster redevelopment ordinance. 

This resource was featured in the January 26, 2017, ASAP Newsletter.

"Smart Growth Fixes for Climate Adaptation and Resilience focuses on navigating existing regulations to integrate climate responses into municipal operations, plans and codes. Peppered with case studies, resource links, practice pointers and other key detailed boxes, the report is thorough yet accessible – a great reference to review and keep on hand."

Chapters 4-8 each focus on a specific risk: floods and extreme precipitation, sea level rise, extreme heat, drought, and wildfire. For each risk the chapter provides suggestions on modest, major, and wholesale policies that the community could implement. For many of these policy suggestions, the chapter provides an example of a community that has used that option.

Each chapter also provides a description of guidance and metrics that the community could adopt drawing on three community-scale sustainability rating systems: LEED for Neighborhood Development, STAR Community Rating System, and the Living Community Challenge.

The report also contains case studies of several cities and towns, including: 

  • Keene, New Hampshire
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Seabrook, New Hampshire
  • Chula Vista, California
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Douglas County, Colorado

Publication Date: January 2017

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