The summers of 2019 and 2020 were two of the hottest on record for the Northern Hemisphere. With these hot days came public health impacts, increased air conditioning use, and differing patterns of outdoor recreation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. These shifts in day-to-day lifestyle and building operations echo much larger shifts likely to come as temperatures climb, seas rise, and wildfires occur with greater frequency. During the COVID-19 pandemic, risks from these natural disasters have also become even more daunting, given reduced city resources, the need for physical distancing, and the vulnerability of many communities to both climate impacts and the virus.
ULI’s Urban Resilience program continued to meet member needs for information on the changing climate and how buildings, communities, and cities can adapt to conditions now and in the future. As the real estate industry begins to design buildings differently and shift real estate investment practices in response to climate change, the program has captured these emerging best practices and profiled industry leadership through research, convenings, technical assistance projects, and partnerships with district councils. Key research topics have included climate risk and real estate investment, extreme heat, sea–level rise, and wildfire resilience. The program’s in-person and virtual events engaged more than 4,000 members and partners during fiscal year 2020 and made headlines in national and local media, including the Weather Channel, CNBC, and the Washington Post.
The program’s flagship convening was the Resilience Summit, the program’s first-ever all-day conference, which took place during the 2019 Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C. At the summit, 180 attendees heard from global leaders in the real estate, land use, and urban policy sectors who are taking action on climate change mitigation and adaptation, kicking off with economist Spencer Glendon, who offered a stark view of climate change’s long-term health and market impacts. Their lessons provided opportunities for ULI members to learn about others’ approaches to real estate investment, development, and city policy, and to adjust their own responses.
The program’s research helped ULI members better understand the industry impacts of climate change and how their work in real estate and development can prepare and adapt in response. Scorched: Extreme Heat and Real Estate, released in August 2020, explored how increased extreme heat is affecting real estate and emerging practices for heat mitigation, from building design to park design and land use strategy. Scorched was the basis for more than 12 in-person or virtual events engaging more than 800 ULI members and communities on the topic of resilience to extreme heat. A follow-up white paper on extreme heat challenges and best practices in the Asia Pacific region brought the topic to an audience in that region.
After the report’s publication, the Urban Resilience program continued to engage members, support the industry, and collaborate with district councils to champion extreme heat resilience efforts. In close partnership with ULI New York, city academic institutions, and local environmental justice organizations, ULI Urban Resilience helped lead a six-month Urban Design Climate Workshop to evaluate the 2019 heat maps in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and to visualize the expected temperatures by 2050 under business–as–usual and best practice heat-resilient land use and development scenarios. Local project partners are sharing the results with city officials who are working on rezoning the neighborhood. ULI Urban Resilience also supported ULI Boston in publication of Living with Heat, which includes recommendations, based on ULI-led charrettes, on how to mitigate extreme heat in four Boston neighborhoods with populations who are especially vulnerable to heat.
In a time of reduced city resources but increasingly harmful climate impacts, the program also provided national support to cities looking to better incorporate resilience into land use, zoning, and strategy.
With the support of JPMorgan Chase, the Urban Resilience program launched the Resilient Land Use Cohort (RLUC), a technical assistance and learning opportunity for eight district councils and their city partners to enhance climate resilience and social equity in their communities. RLUC combines many aspects of ULI’s work with members, councils, and communities to provide guidance on climate–informed zoning, land use, and development strategy, as well as affordable housing, community development, and infrastructure planning. RLUC will meet regularly through fall 2021 to share emerging and best practices and related knowledge to inspire action toward climate adaptation.
The program is also bringing the lessons learned from this work to a global audience through a partnership with Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC). A key part of the research process was holding workshops in five global cities in partnership with ULI Asia Pacific and ULI Europe, including a ULI Asia Pacific–hosted workshop in Singapore, a ULI Europe–hosted workshop in Rotterdam, and a ULI Urban Resilience program workshop held in New York City and co-hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience. The knowledge acquired from these conversations will be folded into an international report compiling lessons on resilience building from five world cities—Hong Kong, Miami, New York City, Rotterdam, and Singapore.
As these cities adapt in the face of a changing climate, the Urban Resilience program will continue to provide resources and industry insights, documenting emerging policies and practices for adaptation for the real estate industry.
Give to the Annual Fund to support ULI’s work in mitigating climate impacts. ULI members are also encouraged to support the Urban Resilience program by volunteering or sharing their views and expertise. Those interested in contributing may submit an inquiry on Navigator