Thursday, August 22, 2019

Resilience and Master Plans

A favorite (and timely) topic of mine, I read with interest an article published in the SCUP journal Planning for Higher Education in 2015 titled "Integrating Resilience Planning into University Campus Planning."  The article is useful in that it endorses the same kind of integrated planning discussed here on this page.  Some of the comments made by the authors were thought-provoking, including:

Many institutions are starting to understand the limits of their insurance coverage and the operational and financial risks posed by the increased threat of natural disasters and climate change. Severe weather poses the most obvious threats to property, but other, more subtle threats from drought and temperature extremes can include the rising costs of irrigation, stress on infrastructure, and limits to campus use during extreme heat. All of these threats can be reduced through resilience planning, mitigation measures, and prudent investment….

A significant factor in many institutions’ vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change relates to building codes. Buildings and infrastructure are designed and constructed to comply with the code requirements in place at the time of their design. The primary natural hazard-related objective of the building code is to protect against loss of life. There is little or no emphasis on safeguarding an investment, sustaining operations, or ensuring business continuity. In addition, codes have no retroactive provisions for improving older infrastructure and buildings with known weaknesses in order to conform to current standards. Over time, if left unchecked, the impact of a major event on older infrastructure and buildings could place catastrophic stress on the financial well-being of a campus.

The article describes the three major steps in the traditional campus planning process: (1) data gathering and analysis; (2) exploration of campus development options; and (3) synthesis or refinement of options and laying out an implementable plan.  The authors then tie similar steps in resilience (and hazard mitigation) planning to these, noting that “there are numerous advantages to integrating these two planning processes and, in particular, to using the comprehensive, inclusive nature of the campus plan to raise the visibility and level of planning around resilience-related challenges.”

1.  Campus Analysis
During the comprehensive data gathering and analysis stage of the campus planning process, collecting data on the campus’s vulnerabilities will strengthen the plan’s conclusions… A key aspect of the campus planning process is the assembly of a broad group of stakeholders to collectively craft a campus vision. Decisions around resilience are relevant to the entire campus constituency; they go beyond facilities management and risk management and include finance, academic affairs, student life, athletics, and others. It is prudent to capitalize on the broad campus planning conversations to raise awareness of resilience-related vulnerabilities and choices.

2.  Campus Development Options 
The second phase of a campus plan typically involves consideration of short- and long-term options for campus development. These alternatives should be developed and evaluated with an eye toward resilience objectives, including the financial cost of potential property damage and business interruption.

3.  Synthesis
As the campus plan is developed and finalized, resilience strategies should be prominent. Including a set of resilience-oriented design guidelines in the campus plan can help protect the institution and ensure its ongoing health.

In a previous post (and another) on this page, I outlined some of the specific ways the resilience/hazard mitigation components of this effort could be incorporated into the final plan document.  The SCUP article concludes with the following statement(s): 

Given the increasing need to prepare for natural hazards and the near- and long-term effects of climate change, institutions would be well advised to integrate resilience strategies into their campus plans. Resilience planning can have a profound and long-term effect on institutional sustainability, allowing institutions to develop a realistic understanding of their risks and vulnerabilities and enhancing their ability to adapt to natural hazards and climate change…. Incorporating resilience planning into the campus planning process provides an outstanding opportunity to leverage a familiar activity involving relevant key stakeholders to address a campus’s vulnerabilities, align resilience-related investments with the broad campus vision, and ensure the long-term viability of the institution.

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