Jason Hartke
Jason Hartke

Jason Hartke isn’t a meteorologist, but he’s not afraid to predict the next storm … or wildfire or drought, for that matter. “There are going to be a different range of temperatures we’ll need to manage, more intense precipitation patterns we’ll need to account for,” says the vice president of national policy for the USGBC. “We can’t be surprised anymore.”

What Hartke is talking about, of course, is climate change, and specifically its impact on the resiliency of the built world, as well as larger elements the drive our economy, from tourism and recreation to transportation and energy distribution.

What he’s asking for is a new course of action, away from reacting to natural disasters toward preparing for them. “There’s too much data, too much research, and too much wisdom to look backwards anymore,” he says. “Resiliency needs to be a forward-thinking agenda.”

To help effect that paradigm shift, Hartke and the USGBC hosted a conference on resiliency, bringing in the mayors of three cities to tell their stories of how they’re gaining local political and financial support to prepare for rather than react to the impacts of more severe weather and other environmental conditions in their communities (see article here).

The USGBC also issued a research report that shows the links between its robust green building best practices and resiliency. “There’s a lot of overlap. It’s not just theoretical,” says Hartke, noting such things as how energy diversity and smart grid technology reduce the chances and duration of blackouts--or even prevents them. “Resiliency is asking for the same things as sustainability,” though he admits that there’s an aspect of durability that’s currently missing in current sustainable building practices.

To that end, the USGBC is working to add guidelines for its LEED rating systems that enable building professionals to earn Innovation in Design credits for resiliency; it is also cataloging what it and others deem “resiliency-related best practices” to inform those guidelines and help the industry recognize the linkages.

The council also supports the Federal Resilience Star program being piloted by the Department of Homeland Security—a telling indicator of just how deep the issue impacts our national interests. “Resiliency weaves into almost every piece of fabric of a community and a country,” he says.

The hurdle, of course, is that not everybody buys the science and therefore is resistant to investing (often heavily) in an unknown future they don’t believe will happen. “The question of consensus agreement on future assumptions regarding the impact of climate change is one of the great challenges of our time,” says Hartke.

To download a free copy of the USGBC report, click here

To learn more about the Federal Resilience Star Pilot Program, click here.