Urban Lands Institute: Returns on Resilience Initiative - the Business Case

The Urban Land Institute’s Returns on Resilience project features case studies on real estate developments that incorporate resilient design measures while maintaining positive business outcomes.

For example, one case study (found on the website) details Partners HealthCare’s project to build the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on the Boston waterfront. Partners monitored effects of storm events like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy on hospitals and as a result prioritized climate resilience during construction. The hospital includes a floor well above the 500-year flood level, flood-protected equipment, and energy efficient mechanical systems and insulation. These features will help the building adapt to climate change effects such as sea-level rise and higher storm intensity. Additionally, through these measures the hospital lowered its first-year operating costs by roughly $400,000, with the number expected to increase to $500,000 for future years.

Another case study details KB Homes, a California-based home building company, developed the Double ZeroHouse, which responds to California’s plights with drought and water shortages which may be exacerbated by climate change. The house is energy self-sufficient and uses no fresh water for irrigation. The Double ZeroHouse utilizes water recycling and monitoring systems to help owners conserve up to 100,000 gallons of water annually. KB Homes estimates that the resilience measures will cost $48,000 more than a home designed with conventional measures. However, these costs are likely to be offset by annual energy savings.

The “key issues” tab of the Returns on Resilience website provides some general lessons from the case studies and resilience strategies they endorse. For example, ULI finds that building designers must often innovate beyond building codes to achieve resilience. ULI also suggests the use of impact-resistant glass to avoid damage during a hurricane or tropical storm.

The Returns on Resilience website allows visitors to submit a project to be included on the site.  The website also provides links to ULI publications and other resources produced by federal agencies and nonprofits about resilience in their “resources” tab.


Returns on Resilience is a research initiative led by the Urban Land Institute’s Urban Resilience Program. The Urban Resilience Program aims to provide leadership on how to build stronger, more adaptive buildings and cities, while also preserving the environment, boosting economic prosperity and fostering a high quality of life.



Publication Date: May 2016

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