New Resiliency Guidelines to prepare New York for Climate Change

Recently, the city of New York announced the release of preliminary Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, which for the first time establish citywide guidance on incorporating projected impacts from climate change into the planning, engineering, construction, and renovation of City facilities. Building on New York City’s national leadership on climate action, the Guidelines are the first of their kind to comprehensively address multiple climate risks across its capital program, the largest in the country. The Guidelines are a critical step towards integrating resiliency as a core principle in the design of City buildings and infrastructure by providing standard policy framework for incorporating forward-looking climate data into design, ultimately saving money by planning for future risks.

“New York is meeting the challenge of climate change head-on, and in the process we are building a better city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These guidelines are another national first, and will make the city’s buildings and infrastructure more resilient in the face of rising seas, extreme heat and storms. Our forward-looking approach will help us prepare for the effects of climate change, so the next generation can continue to call New York home.”

Led by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Guidelines provide architects, engineers, planners, and other professionals with step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate anticipated changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea levels into the design of City facilities, based on the best available science provided by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. The Guidelines are to be used throughout the design process—from the conceptual phase to final design—for all new construction and substantial improvements of City buildings and infrastructure. Utilization of the Guidelines will result in enhanced standards that will make our built environment more resilient to extreme weather and climate change while promoting the health, safety, and prosperity of all New Yorkers.

Current building codes and standards incorporate historic weather data without accounting for changing climate conditions, such as the frequency of future floods, heat waves, and precipitation. These Guidelines provide a standard methodology for choosing design parameters from among the range of climate projections when designing resilient facilities.

Highlights of the Guidelines include:

  • Providing guidance to address major climate risks and planning for continued changes in climate across the entire useful life of facilities built today;
  • Ensuring that both critical and non-critical city facilities are designed to be resilient;
  • Ensuring cost-effective investments are made by evaluating the future climate projections against the service life of a planned new asset;
  • Utilizing projected climate data at the local level;
  • Providing guidance on how to limit the Urban Heat Island effect while also protecting facilities against extreme heat;
  • Addressing urban flooding from extreme precipitation;
  • Recommending the use of flexible adaptation pathways, a way of designing facilities with coastal storms protections that can be upgraded, as a way to manage uncertainty;
  • Recommending that large-scale projects undertake a full climate risk assessment to develop a resilient design specific to the facility.

The Guidelines were developed based on the New York City Panel on Climate Change’s regional climate projections that inform City resiliency policy. Composed of leading scientists, the NPCC prepares projections for the City and metropolitan region which have shown that extreme weather will increase in frequency and severity, and that the climate will become more variable. Climate projections encompass a wide range of possible outcomes, for example:

  • Mean annual temperature is projected to increase between 4.1 and 6.6°F by the 2050s and between 5.3 and 10.3°F by the 2080s.
  • Frequency of heat waves is projected to triple by the 2050s to five to seven heat waves per year.
  • Mean annual precipitation is projected to increase between 4 to 13 percent by the 2050s and between 5 to 19 percent by the 2080s.
  • Sea level is expected to continue rising by 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s and by 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, on top of the 1 foot of rise already measured since 1900.
  • The NPCC continues to study and refine climate projections for the metropolitan region, and these Guidelines will be updated as new reports are released by the NPCC.

ORR worked in partnership with the NPCC and a working group of City agencies to develop the Guidelines. The City will review and pilot the Guidelines on projects throughout the rest of 2017. The results will be used to refine the preliminary draft and a final version will be released in December 2017.

These NYC Climate Resilience Design Guidelines are aligned with the Department of Design and Construction’s Guiding Principles and are meant to be utilized by agencies within their own work, such as those developed by the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Design and Planning for Flood Resiliency: Guidelines for NYC Parks. The NYC Parks guidelines are in development and will be released in 2017.

“Climate change is an existential threat to our city and our planet. As we continue to invest in climate adaptation across our entire $20 billion resiliency program, we are finding ways to make our investments stretch further to buy down risk for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director for Climate Policy & Programs and the Chief Resilience Officer in the Mayor’s Office. “These design guidelines are a critical way that New York City will institutionalize the work of resiliency into the ways we design and build our infrastructure, leveraging our existing spending to ensure that we are continuing to build a more resilient city.”



The Preliminary Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, which are an OneNYC initiative, can be found online here [PDF].


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About Damian Holmes 5668 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at