sea level rise

Resiliency takes center stage in new projects around the country

Projects like these, where resilience is central to their design and construction, are becoming more commonplace.

Written by: John Caulfield
View the original article here.

Resiliency

Perkins+Will has written the design controls for the redevelopment of a 28-acre surface parking lot in San Francisco into a mixed-use waterfront community called Mission Rock, which would have a mesa running through it to handle sea levels that are projected to rise as high as 66 inches by 2100, compared to 24 inches today. Courtesy Perkins+Will.

On July 28, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection awarded AECOM and a team that includes OMA, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, and Matrix New World Engineering the final design contract for a resilience project along the Hudson River. The primary goal is to reduce flooding in Hoboken, which has 2.3 miles of coastal exposure, and parts of Weehawken and Jersey City.

The approach of this project, which HUD awarded $230 million through its Rebuild by Design contest, has four integrated resilience components:

  • Resist, through a combination of hard infrastructure like bulkheads and floodwalls, and soft landscaping like berms that might double as parks.
  • Delay, through policy changes and infrastructure that slow stormwater runoff.
  • Store, with green and gray infrastructure improvements, such as bioretention basins and swales, to capture stormwater.
  • Discharge, by enhancing stormwater management systems and upgrading infrastructure such as sewer lines.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is working on a separate project to redevelop Hoboken’s Terminal and Rail Yard into a mixed-use transit-oriented community with more than $100 million in improvements, is coordinating its efforts with the Rebuild by Design team, whose study area encompasses the terminal/rail yard.

Projects like these, where resilience is central to their design and construction, are becoming more commonplace, as developers and their AEC teams adopt positive measures to give their property assets a fighting chance of surviving the ravages of natural disasters, and to minimize recovery costs.

The replacement Ocosta Elementary School in Westport, Wash., which opened in the fall of 2016, offers a safe haven of refuge to students and residents who would have less than 30 minutes to evacuate in the event of a tsunami. The 23-classroom school includes the first vertical shelter in North America, a rooftop evacuation platform 53 feet above sea level that’s accessible via four flanking stair towers enclosed in concrete.

The platform, which is anchored by concrete piles that extend 55 feet into the ground, can hold more than 1,000 people and withstand a 9.2-magnitude earthquake and the impact of incoming waves. Resilience accounted for $2 million of the school’s $16 million project cost.

Three-thousand miles to the east, a seven-acre site with 1,700 lineal feet of shoreline along East Boston’s waterfront is being transformed into Clippership Wharf, a mixed-used development that will have 478 apartment units on two finger piers. Owner/developer Lendlease took over this project from a previous developer that had planned for lots of surface and underground parking. “That’s just not right for this day and age,” says Nick Iselin, Leadlease’s General Manager of Development. Lendlease rewrote the plan with several resilience measures, including replacing old seawalls that had been part of the site’s industrial infrastructure.

Lendlease is converting one of the piers into a “living shoreline” by creating a series of terraces for new salt marshes and a habitat for Boston Harbor, which is subject to a 10-foot tidal influence. The first floor of each building will be 24 feet above Boston City Base. All infrastructure and mechanical systems will be located above the 100-year flood level. Garage levels will be flood resistant.

To meet Boston’s “Living with Water” ordinance, Lendlease created a 1,400-foot Harbor Walk that will be 14-16 feet above the water level. In all, Clippership Wharf will have 189,830 sf of open space.

Back on the West Coast, there’s a 28-acre parking lot south of AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, that is subject to sea levels that vary as much as 24 inches. Predictions estimate those levels could rise to 66 inches by 2100.

“We needed to manage that risk,” says Kristen Hall, LEED AP, Senior Urban Designer with Perkins+Will, which has written the design controls for the proposed mixed-used redevelopment of this waterfront site, called Mission Rock. Eventually, it will encompass 11 city blocks and include eight acres of parkland, 1,500 rental units, and a million sf of office space. The Giants and the Port of San Francisco are co-developers.

The design, Hall explains, calls for the creation of a mesa down the middle of the site, with minimal frontages that may flood. She calls these frontages the site’s “sacrificial edges.” Other edges will include loading docks that create redundant elevated building access, as the majority of Mission Rock’s buildings would be at higher elevations. The park area would use a series of grade changes as design features, such as an amphitheater, a sloped lawn, steps, and ramps.

In July, the first phase of the Cornell Tech applied science campus was completed on Roosevelt Island in New York City’s East River. That phase includes The House, a residential complex with 350 apartments for staff and faculty, and Bloomberg Center, a four-story, academic building.

The buildout of this 12.4-acre, $2 billion campus is expected to proceed through 2043 and expand to two million sf. SOM, in collaboration with Cornell University and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, is the project’s master planner. Resilience is key to protecting this property.

Colin Koop, AIA, SOM’s Design Director, explains that the East River is a tidal estuary, and significant portions of the site lie within 100- and 500-year floodplains. So all of the architecture needs to be elevated. The main pedestrian walkway, called Techwalk, will allow people to enter the campus at its periphery and then rise gently through its open spaces at a slope that is largely imperceptible. Once they reach the central ridge, they would be surrounded by permeable façades “that help create a synergy between inside and outside spaces on campus,” he says.

Cornell, says Koop, has been a “sophisticated client that is grappling with realities larger than itself and this project.”

Shoreline Adaptation Land Trusts “SALT” – new concept for adaptation

John EnglanderBy John Englander
www.johnenglander.net

 

 

Shoreline Adaptation Land Trusts – “SALT” «««« DOWNLOAD HERE

At a conference today in St. Petersburg Florida I have put forth a new concept: Shoreline Adaptation Land Trusts. “SALT” The 3-page paper was published by the Institute of Science for Global Policy and can be downloaded above or from their web site www.scienceforglobalpolicy.org

I developed the concept in response to their challenge to come up with something specific that could be based on science and help the adaptation of policy to deal with rising sea level. This two day forum is: “Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move?”

Similar to the concept of conservation land trusts which have been well established, a SALT could create a vehicle to facilitate the migration of vulnerable private lands. If you are interested, please download the short paper with the description.

Why Florida Developers and Business Interests Need To Understand and Embrace “Adaptation Action Areas.”

 

Mitch Chester

By Mitchell A. Chester, Esq.

The latest projections of anticipated sea level rise (SLR) in Southeastern Florida offer a stark and compelling reminder that commercial and residential adaptation planning should be a priority concern for developers, building and unit owners and operators, businesses and even tenants.

In October, 2015, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Sea Level Rise Work Group released a document which projects by the year 2030, sea level rise in the region can increase 6 to 10 inches (above 1992 mean sea level) by 2030, just a mere 14 years away. That’s only about half way through a 30 year mortgage. By 2060, the increase above 1992 levels is anticipated to be, based upon present peer-reviewed scientific projections, 34 inches.

To put that in to another context, according to the Work Group, between 1992 and 2015, based upon NASA satellite measurements, the ocean in this part of the planet has heightened by almost 3 inches. That is a significant rise in very short period of time.

As SLR science evaluates and warns of complex dynamic factors such as thermal expansion of ocean water, changing oceanic currents, as well as melting rates of ice sheets and glaciers, society needs to responsibly plan for and adapt to the reality of climate change by developing planning and operational tools which will extend the life of vulnerable areas. This includes preparing existing and planned commercial and residential structures on threatened properties.

An initial effort to plan for such adaptation was created by the Florida Legislature in 2011. Tallahassee adopted the Community Planning Act, which currently provides for “Adaptation Action Areas” (“AAA’s). One of the few actions taken by state lawmakers to address SLR concerns to date, Section 163.3164 (1) of the Florida Statutes defines AAA’s as “a designation in the coastal management element of a local government’s comprehensive plan which identifies one or more areas that experience coastal flooding due to extreme high tides and storm surge, and that are vulnerable to the related impacts of rising sea levels for the purpose of prioritizing funding for infrastructure needs and adaptation planning.”

Without understanding if there is adequate public infrastructure in specific areas, such as resilient water treatment facilities, storm drain systems, roads and bridges, developers and other business stakeholders may make costly and risky decisions to build or upgrade facilities which will be adversely and perhaps prematurely impacted by the verified threat of rising seas.

The failure to thoroughly understand the menace ocean dynamics presents to specific construction projects can ultimately lead to negligence and errors and omissions lawsuits against proponents of the projects, land owners, architects, engineers and construction companies.

Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 163.3177 (6) (g) (10), local governments have the current option to develop AAA boundary areas. These AAA zones can vary in shape and size, and are carefully being implemented in certain areas, such as within portions of the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Inclusion within properly funded Adaptation Action Areas have the potential to increase the value and useful lives of properties to be built or which are being revitalized.

Local governmental discretion to create and manage AAA’s is a potentially powerful tool which can be employed as a part of Florida’s growth management laws. When established for a part of a municipality, AAA’s are designed to promote adaptation to SLR and other coastal hazards, including rising water tables, tidal flooding and storm surge. The AAA strategy allows for funding, on a priority basis, for government infrastructure improvements within the defined boundaries of the AAA.

In November, 2013, the South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) made it clear, “This is the time for all Floridians, the majority of whom live less than 60 miles from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, to question the long-term effects of sea level rise on more than 1,350 miles of our coastline, 4,500 of our estuaries and bays, and over 6,700 square miles of our other coastal waters.”

The SFRPC highlighted high-stakes economic concerns. According to the report Adaptation Action Areas: Policy Options for Adaptive Planning for Rising Sea Levels, “Three-fourths of Florida’s population resides in coastal counties that generate 79 percent of the state’s total annual economy. These counties represent a built-environment and infrastructure whose replacement value in 2010 is $2.0 trillion and which by 2030 is estimated to be $3.0 trillion.”

As Southeastern Florida grows in population and with new projects, clearly, there’s a lot at stake. Those planning to build new condominiums, offices, facilities and other “built environment” developments cannot responsibly do so without an understanding of the meaning of AAA’s. Furthermore, even those desiring to re-build structures need to recognize the critical conceivable importance of AAA’s in their planning process.

As usual, money is key. This means corporate financial adaptation in real estate development is just as important as any other aspect of proposing, and building structures.

In certain coastal and nearby inland areas, fiscal consequences have already profoundly impacted shoreline and adjacent lands. Take for example, the City of Miami Beach, which is spending in excess of a reported $400 million to place pumping facilities throughout the city and the intense and costly focus on climate related issues within the City of Fort Lauderdale and surrounding communities.

Understanding the potential benefits of inclusion in coastal community adaptation action areas can provide is a part of a responsible private sector hazard exposure management strategy. The key is early, intelligent and probing due diligence.

For example, developers considering new coastal projects, on either side of Florida’s Coastal Construction Control Line, will want to know several key issues prior to proceeding with a project so they can financially adapt:

  1. Is the property to be developed included within the boundary of an existing AAA? If not, is a AAA zone being considered for the subject property?
  2. What public infrastructure projects are planned for the immediate area around the proposed construction site? Is the existing or planned governmental infrastructure adequate to serve the development’s anticipated life-span?
  3. Is the AAA funded, and if so, what public projects within the zone are prioritized? How will early AAA projects affect the subject property? What funding mechanisms will power the AAA? For example, federal programs, increased taxes, a variation of development impact fees or bond issuances?
  4. What future plans does the municipality have within the specific designated AAA boundaries? Is the AAA in the planning or operational stage?
  5. What are the flooding risks for the developer’s site footprint over time?
  6. What political challenges are there to the full and proper implementation of an effective AAA?
  7. Will inclusion in an AAA zone enhance the property value of the project? One thought is that being situated within a AAA can potentially increase market value over a limited period of time.
  8. What area protection measures are being considered or are already underway to mitigate against sea level rise?
  9. What construction design requirements are being considered or mandated for the specific AAA? For example, is structure elevation required? To what extent? Will use of such tools help to reduce environmental exposure to the structure?
  10. Is the long-term AAA goal one of retreat as opposed to adaptation? “Managed retreat” is defined by the SFRPC as, “Strategies that involve the actual removal of existing development, their possible relocation to other areas, and/or the prevention of future development in high-risk areas. Retreat strategies usually involve the acquisition of vulnerable land for public ownership, but may include other strategies such as transfer of development rights, purchase of development rights, and rolling or conservation easements.”
  11. Is the AAA in an area where no development will be allowed in the near-term? Are restricted development rights on the horizon in the specific sector?
  12. What new technologies and strategies can be used within the boundaries of the AAA to help lengthen the productive life of the zone?
  13. Will buyers, renters, visitors and tenants be attracted to the property because of its inclusion in a AAA? In other words, can the zone have the same significance as a sea level rise equivalent of LEED-certified buildings?
  14. What can the county and municipality tell you about any adverse consequences for building and developing in a specific AAA?

Peer-reviewed science is clear. Even if we eliminate all greenhouse gasses over the coming years, sea level rise will continue. That’s the blunt reality. Properly planned and funded, Adaptation Action Areas can extend, for some finite period of time, those lands which are most at risk to the ever encroaching ocean waters.

Understanding the sustainable benefits of Adaptation Action Areas is key to responsible planning and development in coastal regions. Much more needs to be done in Congress and at the State Legislature to help engender constructive adaptation to sea level rise, but responsible implementation of AAA’s, with a strong public-private partnership, is a good starting point.

Mitchell A. Chester, Esq. is a civil trial lawyer practicing in South Florida. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and an AV rated attorney. In practice for over 36 years, he is deeply concerned about developing legal and monetary adaptation strategies and solutions for communities threatened by swelling oceans. Mr. Chester is editor of RaisingFields.org (how agriculture can adapt to sea level rise and increased heat), SLRAmerica.org (which explores legal and practical financial issues pertaining to sea level rise), FinancialAdaptation.org (monetary tools for sea level rise), Sea Level Rise Radio.com (a podcast which discusses topics to examine key societal issues and opportunities presented by encroaching waters) and MySeaLevelRise.org (SLR issues). His focus is on people, including homeowners, renters and business owners as we jointly prepare for altered coastlines. He is one of the directors of the CLEO Institute, which educates government leaders and students in Southeastern Florida about sea level rise and climate issues. Mr. Chester has presented SLR and climate issues in Southeastern Florida including events at the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, Miami-Dade College, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades, the Environmental Coalition for Miami and the Beaches, the Coral Gables Museum, and other venues.

How Greed and Capitalism Can Solve the Climate Crisis

By Greg Hamra, LEED AP BD+C, O+M
Climate Solutionist, Education & Advocacy
Guest Author

 GH1

You’re about to learn of a fiscally conservative, market based solution to the climate crisis that reduces government regulations, boosts economic growth, creates millions of jobs, save thousands of lives per year and reduces greenhouse gases and has the endorsement of leading economists and world-famous scientists.

But first, a disclaimer: I think Naomi Klein makes some very good points in her book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.” Naomi Klein first landed on my radar with this hard-hitting quote:

“Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. A belief system that vilifies collective action and declares war on all corporate regulation and all things public simply cannot be reconciled with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that are largely responsible for creating and deepening the crisis.”

I find it very difficult to argue with her statement. However, many experts believe solution exists somewhere in between Naomi Klein and Milton Friedman, in fixing capitalism, not overthrowing it. Don’t be so quick to dismiss capitalism as a tremendously powerful force to drive human behavior and major financial moves. Right now capitalism is very broken. It’s being misused, mismanaged, and even hijacked. And when it comes to our energy economy, it is completely bastardized. Milton Friedman is turning over in his grave.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” – Fredric Jameson

And if you think all this is just a scam – part of a liberal conspiracy, I say to you: “You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” - Ayn Rand

Please take a moment to consider the benefits being put forth, an economic boost, job creation, and restoration of free-market capitalism! The issues at hand are of such great urgency and importance that none of us can enjoy the luxury of expecting everyone to do what needs to be done for the same reasons you or I have.

So what’s the problem?

Our need power our world by continually burning of fossil fuels results in serious consequences for our planet, our economy, and the way we live. Our very way of life is threatened. Burning of fossil fuels results in the release of heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere. This is not disputed.

The costs associated with this are immense. They include: downwind emissions that shorten people’s lives, sea-level rise (SLR), extreme weather, increased wildfires, ecosystem and biodiversity loss (including crop loss), dying coral, famine, floods, mudslides, damaged fisheries, and a national security risk in the form of climate refugees. (See documentary: “Climate Refugees” with Newt Gingrich – trailer).

The big issue for us in South Florida is clearly sea-level rise. In fact, Miami is ground-zero for the economic impacts of sea-level rise with the greatest value of assets at risk in the world. SLR is the result of a warming planet. Over 93% of the Earth’s trapped surface heat goes straight to the oceans. Thermal expansion of ocean water and melting of land-based ice results in sea-level rise. Here in S. FL, the seas have risen nearly 9 inches in the past 100 years, as measured by the Naval Air Station in Key West. During super high-tides, sea water is delivered into our streets through the storm sewers. (Sea-level rise in action) The City of Miami Beach is undertaking major infrastructure improvements, raising sea-walls, roads and sidewalks, and installing pumps to return seawater back to Biscayne Bay. The first phase of this project included four pumps at a cost of $15 Million. The entire project will involve 60-70 pumps with a whopping price-tag.

Estimated cost: $500 MILLION

Prices reflected in our cost of good or fuels: $0

With assets in the trillions to be protected, we need to do this, but we also need to fix a big accounting error.

Our broken energy economy bears little resemblance to a free-market economic model.

Three predominant market distortions that must be remedied:

  • The price on fossil fuels does not reflect the social costs.
  • Energy subsidies (picking winners and losers) serve to create deeper market distortions.
  • Top-down government regulations can be inefficient and costly, and receive consistent pushback from ‘free-market’ purists and industry groups.

The President’s new Clean Power Plan is an aggressive and effort to tackle GHG emissions. So what’s the problem? Half of the states are already protesting it.
GH2

Our energy economy is broken. Very broken. Nobody argues with this.

Another problem we have are elected leaders who are driven by fear, short-term interests, and often re-elected by low-information, similarly fearful voters. I submit that most of these punters, these ‘slow-lane’ Americans who waffle somewhere between “let’s keep it in neutral” and “more CO2 release is good for us” are actually quite scared. But they’re not afraid of the science. They’re afraid of the solutions. They fear that anything we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will tank our economy. Many people truly believe this, conservatives and many liberals too. And they’re wrong.

What we have at hand is potentially the biggest job-creating economic stimulus ever seen… if we get it right. But what if we don’t? It’s not like it’s the end of the world, right? Wrong That’s exactly what it means. Our survival on this planet depends on getting this right, and fast. We can’t afford to punt. We need a big play.

We need to fix the accounting error. The moment we begin to account for the social and environmental costs of carbon based fuels, the markets will shift.

To my conservative friends:

Our energy economy is nothing at all like the “free-market” Milton Friedman envisioned. Would you help to restore true, free-market principles, remove the socialism from the system, help restore capitalism and fix our energy economy? Consider dealing with this issue the Reagan way.

To my more liberal, and potentially anti-capitalist friends:

Capitalism is a big word, with many flavors. Leading economists realize we’re getting it wrong and that a correction is in order. Experts think more plausible, and certainly more politically viable to plug the holes in capitalism rather than swap it for an entirely different economic system. That would require nothing short of a revolution. Are you ready for that? Me neither.

There’s one plan that could put us on the right track. The Washington Post called it the most politically viable solution to reducing greenhouse gasses, and it is consistent conservative economic principles.

The carbon fee + dividend (CF&D) plan was written by a Republican icon, George Shultz, President Reagan’s Treasury Secretary and Secretary of State, and Nobel laureate Gary Becker.

It calls for a steadily-rising revenue-neutral carbon tax collected at the most upstream point — the mine, well, frack pad — (about 1600 points of collection in the U.S.) and rebating those fees back to American households. All of it. This is not a big government plan. In fact, it trades in current big government regulations and subsidies for a simple, more honest, market-based plan that fixes the accounting error.

This plan is consistent with conservative economic principles by embedding the true cost into the price we pay for our direct and embodied energy. When happens, market actors change behavior almost immediately. When the markets move in this direction we’ll be on our way. Suddenly all those green jobs we’ve wanted start taking off. American ingenuity and competition is unleashed.

This plan has the endorsement of leading economists, top scientists, and top economic policy analysts. George Shultz says: “You shouldn’t call it a tax if the government doesn’t keep it!”

Read about the Shultz-Becker Carbon Tax proposal in this WSJ article (or see PDF).

In summary the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan:

  • reduces government intervention
  • leverages the incredible power of the market
  • is revenue-neutral; rebates all funds to taxpayers
  • unleashes American ingenuity and innovation, and spurs competition
  • will create millions of jobs, benefiting our economy (REMI report)
  • would eliminate costly fossil-fuel subsidies
  • would result in thousands of lives saved
  • would reduce GHGs by over 50% by 2035

From a performance standpoint, the Carbon Fee & Dividend would outperform the Clean Power Plan. Look:

  • CPP aims for a 32% emissions reduction by 2030 (and some call it a job killer)
  • CFD would reduce CO2 emissions by 52% by 2035 (and it creates 2.8 million jobs)

So the solution is simple:

  1. Put an HONEST price on carbon
  2. Rebate all fees to American households
  3. Get out of the way and let the free market work

This is a call to my fellow Americans. Let’s fix capitalism! Let’s restore some honesty into the system.

Economist Robert Reich explains in 3-minutes:

GH3

What we need is political will for a livable world. We need a price on carbon, a carbon fee & dividend.

To be part of the solution, contact Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the most effective organization driving sane climate policy in this country. www.citizensclimatelobby.org

The world’s most famous climate scientist says…
GH4

Learn more:

 

Now, let me tell you about this…

10/22/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

I freeze…become paralyzed in the face of danger or uncertainty. It is something that I am getting better at as I age but I still tend to become a deer in the headlights from time to time. In heated discussions, I never come up with the one line “Buzzinga” response until later – sometimes days later – when it is too late to be effective.

Does this happen to you?   Or, are you one of the blessed people who know just the right response to any situation without giving it a second thought? Do you see a situation and instantly know and take the correct action to save the person from going into the undertow or stop the bleeding from a kitchen knife cut or have just the right response to win the debate?

We all respond to new circumstances differently. Some freeze, some panic and run, others deny what is happening like a child who pretends people cannot see him when he pulls his “magical” covers over his head. And, then, there are some charge forward full speed ahead.

Again, if you are like me, once you get over the shock of “is this really happening?” you assess the situation, spring into action and work feverishly to correct, or save, the situation….

Based on the muted reaction, or the “I am not a scientist so it does not exist” position of a significant number of our civic, community and business leaders, either they are in shock that the world’s climate can change so rapidly or they are in complete denial which is worse. The fact that many large American cities ranging from Galveston and New Orleans to Tampa, Miami and even as far north as New York City will be faced with significant issues from the rising sea level is still being debated among politicians reflects a similar approach to reality as the child with the magic blanket.

The news of global warming, now more appropriately referred to as Climate Change, is not new. Scientists have been ringing the warning bell for at least two decades. And yet we still do not want to believe.

Well, we are now starting to see the effects. Storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, increased flooding in cities like Miami Beach, increased tornado activity, the hottest year on record, and shrinking shorelines caused by sea level rise are now featured in the news on a regular basis.

Many government officials responsible for protecting the public from such events are joining in the chorus to raise awareness in order to make their job of obtaining public approval for a budget to install and maintain systems and equipment to reduce the damage from the effects of climate change feasible.

Yet, it is the real estate community that seems to most want to stick their head in the sand….For instance, last July, the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force issued its report and recommendations. Shortly afterwards, the Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects held a meeting with Harvey Ruvin, Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts and Chairman of the Task Force, presenting the report. The meeting, which was broadly announced, had fewer than 100 attendees and almost no one from the real estate community was in attendance.

As reported in the June 2014 report “Risky Business: A Climate Risk Assessment for the United States”, it is apparent that climate change and sea level rise are going to have significant effects on the American global business community – and real estate, which has a particular distinction of being immovable, is going to be more impacted than most industries.

And yet. And yet the real estate community is acting as if it is business as usual. The level of interest in doing a sustainable retrofit has yet to make a significant impact on the market – especially for properties that are not seeking credit-quality tenants whose corporate sustainability policies encourage occupancy in LEED-certified buildings. (According to an article entitled “What’s Sustainability Wroth to Tenants?” by Paul Bubny of Cushman & Wakefield in the 10/28/2014 GlobeSt.com national eMagazine, ” Among the 37 real estate and sustainability directors at 23 US-based corporations surveyed by C&W, 74% see value in going to a sustainable building compared to a non-sustainable one.”1

With the obvious costs to upgrade and improve the infrastructure – especially electrical and water and sewer utilities, as well as expected increase in insurance costs, a prudent reaction to the reality of climate change and sea level rise would be to put improvements in place now that reduce the consumption of water and power as well as to make a building less susceptible to damage from major hurricanes, storms and other weather events (like flooding).

We can only hope that real estate owners, investors, managers and tenants will soon realize that the future is now, overcome their “shock” of the impending calamity and start to take action. It is time to take action. The economic, environmental and operational benefits will be immediate and, if done right, sustainable.

And, as in any crisis situation, if you wait too long to take action, the results can be devastating. Let me know if I can be of service.

1 See (http://www.globest.com/news/12_975/national/office/Whats-Sustainability-Worth-to-Tenants-351877.html?ET=globest:e44644:11970a:&st=email&s=&cmp=gst:National_AM_20141027:editorial).

Miami weather forecast …rising tides, flooding and heat

8/13/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

I live in Miami – it is my home. The other night I was watching the weather forecast. The August full moon, a “super” moon, was on Sunday. The forecaster gave us the news that the weather was going to continue to being in the mid-90s with afternoon thunder storms – summer in Miami, no news there (NOTE: All of the record high monthly record temperatures in Miami have been recorded since 1971). However, the forecaster continued to advise viewers who live on Miami Beach and other low-level areas that they may need their rubber boots in order to get to their cars in parking lots and to watch for flooding along the roadways….This is a fairly recent phenomenon – but one that is going to be a part of the forecast for years to come.

It has been a year since Rolling Stone published its article entitled “Goodbye, Miami” written by James Goodell (7/4/2013 Read more:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620?page=3#ixzz3A6oXVFId).

When the article was first published, most of Miami’s leaders scoffed at the article and the idea that Miami may not exist in 100 years. Perhaps it was the publication in which it was published or wishful thinking, but most of Miami’s (and Florida’s) business and political leaders decided to stick their head in the sand and ignore the increasing number of days in which our streets are flooded.

As reflected in numerous studies and many reports and articles, the world is warming. It does not really matter if it is natural or man-made – the facts are the facts – and this one will not be ignored for long. Along with the warming of the earth’s surface is a rising of the sea level resulting from both the melting of the ice caps and the expansion of the water as it warms….It has already risen almost one foot in the past century – and the pace at which it is rising is hastening.

Predictions are that the sea level will rise by two feet within 35 years and by up to one foot per decade thereafter – until the earth’s temperature stabilizes. At these levels – and with no actions put into place – Mr. Goodell’s prediction will surely come true.

The implications are immense: According to the report, Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate change in the United States, produced by the Risky Business Project led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and published in June:

“In Florida, because of porous limestone on which the major southern cities were build, even modest sea level rise comes at significant economic cost. Under current projections, between $15 billion and $23 billion (in today’s dollars) of existing property will likely be underwater by 2050, a number that grows to between $53 billion and $208 billion by the end of the century…An additional $240 billion in property will likely be at risk during high tide that is not at risk today.”

The impact of rising sea levels goes beyond flooded streets and imminent threat to property – and the impacts will grow exponentially as the sea rises and our leaders and citizenry remain immobilized – whether out of denial, ignorance or apathy.

Miami especially is vulnerable because of our low ground level (one quarter of Miami-Dade County is at less than 3′ above sea level) and our porous limestone plateau which Glenn Landers, senior engineer at the US Army Corps of Engineers likens to a block of Swiss cheese in Mr. Goodels’ article. A good analogy for the ground on which Miami (and all of South Florida) is built; but troublesome in the development of global solutions.

To its credit, Miami Beach has started to build pumping stations to reduce flooding – but this is only a stop-gap measure AND is being contested by home owners who feel it reduces the value of their property. This Stormwater Master Plan began with $206 million budget which is estimated to be half of the actual monies needed. The City is starting to raise fees and rates in order to pay for this program.

According to information in the website Sea Level Rise America, (www.slramerica.org), “Property owners of all types including developers, need to understand sea level rise issues and adaptation strategies. Those seeking to sell their properties will have to disclose to potential purchasers that their real property will be impacted by sea level rise and possibly higher taxes imposed by governments seeking to update public infrastructure projects such as storm sewers. Such adaptation projects will be necessary, but some will be controversial.”

SLR America identifies 26 legal and financial implications of rising sea levels on coastal communities – and many of these implications need to be addressed NOW: For instance, let’s take the disclosures in real property sales. “Simply stated, residential (and commercial) property purchasers in sea level rise threatened zones need informed notice and protection.” Just like sellers and real estate agents must disclose hazards due to asbestos and radon and lead-based paint, in order for sellers to be protected from future claims, property sales in 2013, when sea level rise is a known scientific fact, need to be accompanied by the disclosure of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the property.

We are not under water – yet! Last year, the Miami-Dade County Commissioners created a Sea Level Rise Task Force which issued its report on July 1st (Available here: http://www.miamidade.gov/planning/boards-sea-level-rise.asp) and provided six recommendations to the Commissioners. It is important that the real estate and business leaders support these recommendations and encourage the County government to dedicate the resources necessary to create and implement a plan that results in the survival of our fair City.

Meanwhile, building owners and managers can start now to make their properties more sustainable – which includes the ability to withstand increasingly harsh and violent storms with greater flooding from storm surge.

I have lived in tornado zones and earthquake zones and hurricane zones. The true benefit of living in a hurricane zone is that you have 3 – 7 days of advance notice. In those days, we prepare – we buy supplies and protect our properties against the coming storm.   With climate change and the sea level rise, we are given just 40 years to prepare – it is time to start make our preparations – the weather forecast is not changing any time soon.