USGBC expands green building resilience resources

Flickr user Ted Eytan

Cailin Crowe, Smart Cities Dive, Oct. 2, 2020

  • The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), alongside the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), released an expanded suite of resources and resilience tools to support green building initiatives, helping cities and businesses mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19 and the worsening impacts of climate change. 
  • USGBC and GBCI’s available resources include the “LEED for cities and communities program” to help enhance building resilience; a roadmap for operating and designing energy systems in the face of potential disasters; and educational materials about resiliency within the green building industry, among other tools.
  • USGBC also partnered with Coastal Risk Consulting on a new RiskFootprint tool, which enables building owners, architects and engineers to assess a building’s vulnerability to climate risks such as flooding or earthquakes. 

Dive Insight:

More than 16 million people globally and 1.2 million U.S. residents were displaced due to weather-related events in 2018. Today, the effects of climate change in the U.S. are being felt perhaps most urgently on the West Coast, as wildfires have destroyed more than one million acres and killed at least 33 people, CNBC reports

The building sector is one of the primary areas where cities can tackle climate change and its costly effects. 

“We know people, especially those in our most vulnerable communities, are already experiencing the costs of a changing climate and the resilience of the people in these structures is a critical factor,” Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI, said in a statement. “Resilient design, construction and operations verified through green building and infrastructure certifications can help reduce risk and vulnerability.”

And despite the financial challenges that many cities are currently facing due to the pandemic, policy work among cities to meet their climate goals in the building sector is largely still continuing, according to USGBC Senior Policy Counsel Elizabeth Beardsley.

St. Louis, for instance, recently became the first Midwest city to pass a Building Energy Performance Standard to help eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. And the City of San Jose, which plans to reduce its emissions 80% by 2050, kick-started its Better Buildings program in March to support the reduction of GHG emissions for 19 city buildings. 

To support resiliency within the building sector, Beardsley said a range of solutions can be used, such as incentives. Much of the work doesn’t necessarily have an associated net cost since energy-related GHG emission reductions typically pay for themselves in savings, she said. 

In fact, the National Institute of Building Sciences recently found that for every $1 invested in disaster mitigation, society is saved $6. USGBC Research Project Manager Sean McMahon echoed those findings, saying there are now more building owners and investors potentially seeing resilience as an investment opportunity rather than an upfront expense. 


Address long-term stressors, such as economic dislocation and climate change. USGBC advances this vision by acting to:

  1. Support and celebrate leadership: LEED projects that are certified or seeking certification can take
    advantage of a dual pathway to recognize their leadership in promoting resilience. Projects can either
    seek RELi certification in addition to LEED certification or implement the LEED Resilience Design pilot
    credits. Resilient Design pilot credits seek to ensure that design teams identify and mitigate potential
    vulnerabilities to natural and human-caused disasters. The Resilient Design pilot credits are available to all
    new construction projects seeking to certify through LEED v4 or LEED v4.1 and have been harmonized to
    align with RELi. LEED for Cities projects can take advantage of unique resources, including the Measuring
    Resilience Guide.
  2. Provide new, targeted tools: The RELi Rating System adds to strategies to the resilience toolkit. These
    are rooted in a holistic, integrative approach to building design. It is used by companies, developers, city
    planners and others to assess and plan for all of the acute hazards that buildings and communities can face
    during unplanned events, prepare to mitigate these hazards, and design and construct buildings to maintain
    critical life-saving services in the face of extreme events.
  3. Promote resilient energy systems: The PEER Rating System provides a roadmap for designing and
    operating energy systems that are resilient to disasters, reliable in their ability to meet every day needs, and
    mitigate the impact of climate change on communities.
  4. Promote resilient landscapes: The SITES Rating System fosters resilience by creating regenerative
    landscapes and ecologically resilient communities that benefit the environment, property owners and local
    and regional communities and economies.
  5. Create new guidance and educational resources: USGBC will compile and share resources and education
    offering guidance on best practices to make resilience an even stronger priority as we pursue a smart,
    equitable and sustainable recovery.
  6. Recognize professionals: USGBC will recognize leaders with the knowledge required to create and operate
    resilient buildings, communities and cities with a RELi professional credential.
  7. Provide inspiration and thought leadership: In October, USGBC will host its annual Resilience Summit
    at Greenbuild. The Summit will convene government officials, planners, developers and others to consider
    the state of resilience in the built environment and foster a shared vision for more resilient cities and
  8. Listen and innovate: USGBC will launch a call for ideas to hear perspectives from the broader market on
    how our programs can better evolve to support the development of resilient buildings, communities and
  9. Advocacy for action: In addition to intensifying work with federal, state and city governments to advocate
    for policies, guidance and incentives in support of our new vision, we will also work to ensure that public
    disaster recovery funds are spent on high quality, resilient buildings that mitigate climate related risks and
    promote social equity and health.
    10.Build community and partnerships: USGBC will leverage its network of members, partners and LEED
    users to build a community of leaders for resilient buildings, communities and cities. USGBC will establish
    partnerships with a variety of organizations committed to advancing resilience.
  10. Apply data and technology: USGBC will apply its growing data and technology platforms to help
    stakeholders gain insights and inform action. As a first step, USGBC will partner with Coastal Risk
    Consulting to provide high quality climate risk analyses for buildings, communities, and cities. Integration of
    U.S. Green Building Council | 4
    RiskFootprint™ with LEED Online and Arc will give any commercial or residential project new tools to assess
    vulnerability to flooding, storm surge, earthquake, drought, increased rainfall, increasing temperature and
    other risks.
    We commit to these actions, because we know that they are the foundation for our shared vision – Healthy
    people in healthy places equals a healthy economy. This vision will be realized when we have more:
    • Buildings that bounce back from shocks
    • Communities that adapt to the long-term stress of climate change
    • Organizations that thrive as we transition to low-carbon economy
    • People who thrive in a more equitable society