An Obama administration initiative to increase “community resilience” through building codes and standards acknowledges the important role landscape designers and builders play in creating safe and healthy residential, commercial and institutional environments.
The White House played host this week to a conference on resilient building codes. Urging widespread public and private participation in addressing the safety and sustainability of America’s built environment, the administration says the impact of climate change – hotter temperatures, extreme weather, sea level rise and severe drought – will continue to test the resilience of the nation’s buildings and the spaces around them.
“It was refreshing to see the administration take the initiative to address this issue,” said Chad D. Danos, president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, who attended the White House conference on Tuesday.
In a Wednesday morning interview, Danos said the “message that resonated” throughout the conference was the need to ensure America’s homes and businesses can stand up to “higher-intensity events, whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, fires in the West …,” and recover from them quickly.
“There are some unknowns, of course, but there are also some things we can predict pretty reliably,” Danos said, “such as more – and more intense – storm events.”
Along with building codes and standards, Danos said, landscape design will continue to play an extremely important role in the planning of communities that reflect the resilience envisioned by policymakers.
In addition to numerous activities within more than a dozen federal agencies, the Obama administration cites dozens of private-sector efforts tied to the initiative. Among the latter, according to a White House fact sheet, is the following: “The American Society of Landscape Architects commits to publishing a resilience toolkit that will include research, guides, projects, and other resources to help professionals design resilient landscapes at various scales.”
Interestingly, ASLA already has produced a wealth of material on almost exactly that topic, but Danos said the organization would be “bringing some new content to the table along with the research and extensive work we’ve already done.”
Principles of sustainability in landscape design focus on “green infrastructure.” While the concept, defined broadly, covers a lot of ground, many of the specific elements of green infrastructure are straightforward. The use of permeable paving to help manage stormwater runoff is one example; others include bioswales, bioretention ponds (or rain gardens) and green roofs.