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Boston Adopts New Building Design Guidelines, Increasing Resilience to Coastal Flooding

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

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BOSTON, Massachusetts – The City of Boston continues to advance climate resilience initiatives with the recent adoption of the Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Board of Directors.  The new design guidelines apply to existing and future developments, ensuring buildings are built or adapted to withstand the flooding risks posed by sea level rise and storm surge. 

As part of the consultant team led by Utile, Inc., Kleinfelder was integral in the development of the Guidelines, providing architectural, engineering, and planning support for technical analyses, including mapping products, resiliency strategy recommendations, zoning review and guidance, and support for building type case studies.  

The Guidelines are designed to work with several initiatives the City of Boston is moving forward with as part of Climate Ready Boston, including neighborhood plans, public right-of-way guidance, and draft zoning measures. “Climate Ready Boston lays out strategies that think holistically about building a more resilient City - from protecting residents and homes to jobs and infrastructure,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “The Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines are an important piece of this plan. They provide a tangible resource to ensure current and future developments coincide with our vision for a more resilient Boston.”  With strategies and best practices to guide engineers, architects, and other building industry professionals, the Guidelines will serve as an invaluable tool for development in vulnerable areas. “The new guidance for private development builds towards layered systems of flood protection that blend top-down and bottom-up approaches,” explained Kleinfelder Sr. Climate Change Planner, Nasser Brahim.

In addition to guidance for new development, the Guidelines address the pressing challenge of how to retrofit existing buildings to be more resilient to coastal flooding.  Brahim explained that, “the areas that are most vulnerable to sea level rise are densely developed, so building owners will need to adapt their properties or face increasing risks.” With the need for retrofits in mind, the Guidelines include case studies with short- and long-term adaptation strategies tailored to work for each of the most common building types in the floodplain. 

The Guidelines also include recommendations on how to link building resiliency measures with public realm, accessibility, and sustainability improvements. “We recognized that, within these dense urban settings, investments in coastal resiliency should enhance and not detract from urban livability,” said Brahim.

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Founded in 1961, Kleinfelder is a leading engineering, design, construction management, construction materials inspection and testing, and environmental professional services firm. Kleinfelder operates from over 70 office locations in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The company is headquartered in San Diego, California. Poised for growth, Kleinfelder continues to provide high-quality solutions for our diverse client base.  Visit or follow us on LinkedIn/Kleinfelder.