Building
Sustainably

ULI amplifies the connection between the built environment, the responsible use of natural resources, and long-term environmental impacts. The ULI Center for Sustainability provides practitioners and policy makers with best practices and case studies to guide the development of climate change–resilient and sustainable communities. Building for resilience can minimize risks, enhance asset values, and protect economic prosperity, property, and human life from the impacts of climate change. This was the main theme of Returns on Resilience: The Business Case, a report and interactive website produced by the center’s Urban Resilience Program in FY 2016 with support from the Kresge Foundation. resilience-report-cover

As climate-related threats become more frequent and intense, building for resilience may soon become the standard development practice expected by investors, insurers, and local governments. “With climate change, the past is not a clear predictor of the future,” the report explains. “Weather patterns are changing and with them the risks faced by development are everywhere. Building for resilience can help developers and property owners adjust to these changing times with some assurance that they are building well and wisely for the future.”

A driving force behind Returns on Resilience was the Responsible Property Investment Council (RPIC), a group of ULI members whose goal is the wider adoption of “triple bottom line” principles that lead to strong financial returns as well as positive social and environmental outcomes. The center’s staff worked closely with the council to solicit examples of projects that were built to withstand the shocks of extreme weather—storm surges, drought, urban flooding—and the incremental impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise while protecting and enhancing asset values.

Molly McCabe and Philip Payne, cochairs of the Responsible Property Investment Council.
Molly McCabe and Philip Payne, cochairs of the Responsible Property Investment Council.

The result is ten case studies that span diverse geographical locations and property types. A wide variety of properties are highlighted as examples of resilient building and design, including the following: a Caribbean beachfront resort built to withstand coastal flooding and storm surges; resource-efficient single-family homes in the U.S. Southwest designed for drought conditions and net-zero energy consumption; and a state-of-the-art rehabilitation hospital in Boston built to ensure continuity of patient care during a hurricane.

Each case study details investments in resilience made by owners and investors, their motivations, and the resulting indicators of financial performance—an increase in net operating income through cost savings in energy expenditures, avoidance of catastrophic damage, and assurance of business continuity; revenue enhancements through higher sales, higher rent premiums, quicker lease-ups, and more favorable lease terms; and improvements in market differentiation, brand loyalty, and awareness.

Spaulding Hospital in Boston was one of the projects built for climate resilience featured in the report.
Spaulding Hospital in Boston was one of the projects built for climate resilience featured in the report.

In addition to the report, an interactive Returns on Resilience website was developed for ULI members and other stakeholders to suggest examples of projects that were built for resilience and demonstrate superior operational and financial results.

“Our aim in Returns on Resilience was to demonstrate what many in the private sector already know,” said Molly McCabe, RPIC cochair and chief executive officer of HaydenTanner, a real estate advisory firm. “Each of these innovative properties demonstrates the value of strategic investments in resilience to both reduce climate-related risks and to ensure continued prosperity for investors, owners, and communities at the forefront of climate change.”

Suggest an example of a project that builds resilience while also ensuring financial returns at returnsonreslience.uli.org. Or download a copy of Returns on Resilience: The Business Case. Learn more about the ULI Center for Sustainability