Perkins+Will Offers Plan to Adapt to Climate Change Risks in Washington, D.C.

Recommendations prepared for D.C. government offer specific actions to prepare for and adapt to potential threats

Perkins+Will, in collaboration with the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and other partners, today released new recommendations for strategies to adapt to and prepare for climate change-related events, particularly in local areas identified as being the most vulnerable to such risks. The Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the District of Columbia establishes a framework for action in four critical areas:

• Transportation and Utility Infrastructure – Developing site-level adaptation plans for all transportation, energy, water/wastewater, telecommunications/data facilities, functions, and service areas that are identified as at-risk from rising sea levels and flooding.
• Buildings and Development – Upgrading existing buildings, addressing resilience with new construction and development, incentivizing private owners and developers to implement resilience measures, and developing agency protocols to ensure compliance with these measures.
• Neighborhoods and Communities – Improving public awareness of threats and ways to counter them, improving the readiness of emergency responders and community members, and increasing opportunities for community engagement and citizen response.
• Governance and Implementation – Developing an organizational strategy that links all adaptation efforts in D.C.

“The Climate Change Adaptation Plan provides a roadmap for the District of Columbia to proactively address the dangers from a likely ‘new normal’ of catastrophic climate change impact in the nation’s capital, and serves as a model for examining and addressing threats to D.C.’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, Wards 7 and 8,” said Amy Thompson, project manager based out of Perkins+Will’s D.C. office.

The four action areas listed above are the culmination of an in-depth study into climate projections and scenarios that assessed vulnerability and risk in the D.C. area. The study and analysis are captured in three reports: Climate Projections and Scenarios, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment, and the Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the District of Columbia, the third of which was released today. Perkins+Will co-authored the reports with support from AREA Research, the firm’s nonprofit platform for discovery and exploration, and Kleinfelder and Katherine Hayhoe of Atmos Research and Consulting.

“Through this extensive effort, we have identified ways climate change-related events could endanger critical infrastructure and services, like transportation, the power grid, medical facilities, emergency response, and public safety—and how D.C. can take precautionary action now to minimize impact,” said Jon Penndorf of Perkins+Will’s Washington, DC office, whose work has focused on resilience and mental health and sustainability.

The recommended next step is for the DOEE to collaborate with multiple agencies and partners to create the necessary structure to ensure successful implementation of the Climate Adaptation Plan. The suggested actions include establishing a public-private task force with key stakeholders including infrastructure owners and operators, to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the plan. It also includes identifying potential funding mechanisms and strategies that could involve combining local, federal and private sources.

The DOEE initiative is one of several ways Perkins+Will has been working to help cities plan for a more resilient future. These include our role as a Strategy Partner with 100 Resilient Cities, as pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation; the development of RELi, an action list and rating system for resilience; the creation of resilience guidelines for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and ongoing resilience planning and tool development with organizations like the American Institute of Architects, the Urban Land Institute, and The Nature Conservancy.

To access the Climate Change Adaptation Plan and the reports that define the threats and vulnerable areas in the District, visit

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