Resiliency Design Guide: Landscape Architecture and Climate Change

 Hurricane Matthew, 10/7/16. National Weather Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Matthew, 10/7/16. National Weather Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What can we do to slow down the impacts of climate change in our communities? We get asked this question all the time as families grapple with the realities of climate change and partisan politics get’s in the way of broad policies. Fortunately there is much we can do and much that can be done at the municipal and state levels to address the realities of our changing climate.

We are pleased to share the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) new online guide, which explains how communities can better protect and prepare themselves from the weather and climate impacts that Mother Nature is throwing at us. One of the greatest concerns for the US east coast from Hurricane Matthew was storm surge, how to slow down and manage the ocean as it travels inland in big storms. Iowa’s recent flooding and the current drought in Massachusetts and other eastern coast and west coast states, are conditions which, while becoming more common, are ones we can plan for and be better prepared for.

According to the Guide, “the goal of resilient landscape planning and design is to retrofit communities to recover more quickly from extreme events, now and in the future.” The guide includes hundreds of case studies and resources demonstrating multi-benefit systems as well as small-scale solutions. It also explains landscape architects’ role in the planning and design teams helping to make communities more resilient.

The Guide provides value to communities, including:

1. Risk Reduction. As events become more frequent and intense due to climate change, communities must adapt and redevelop to reduce potential risks and improve ecological and human health. It’s also time to stop putting communities and infrastructure in high-risk places. And communities must reduce sprawl, which further exacerbates the risks.
2. Scalability and Diversity. Resilient landscape planning and design offer a multi-layered system of protection, with diverse, scalable elements, any one of which can fail safely in the event of a catastrophe.
3. Multiple Co-Benefits. Resilient landscape design solutions offers multiple benefits at once. For example, designed coastal buffers can also provide wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities; urban forests made up of diverse species clean the air while reducing the urban heat island effect; and green infrastructure designed to control flooding also provides needed community space and creates jobs.
4. Regeneration. Disruptive natural events that are now occurring more frequently worldwide harm people and property. Resilient design helps communities come back stronger after these events. Long-term resilience is about continuously bouncing back and regenerating. It’s about learning how to cope with the ever-changing “new normal.”

Screen Shot 2016-10-07 at 8.28.24 AM*Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 49 professional chapters and 72 student chapters. Members of the Society use “ASLA” after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession. Landscape architects lead the stewardship, planning and design of our built and natural environments; the Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship.

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