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The thunderous emergence of RELi

THE ADAPTIVE CO: Not thunderous as in splashy, but the USGBC’s new RELi standard now becomes the world’s premier climate-resilience rating for the built environment.

No building is an island. Disasters happen to communities. RELi creates the ties you need. (Toronto by Wiki Commons.)

Climate change is and will continue to be worse than anticipated, since the rise in global temperatures can no longer be stopped. That means many things, including resilience retrofits well beyond today’s building codes, and reaching out to surrounding communities to expand your response support.

Those are but two of the dramatic new upgrades RELi represents for your business. Originally designed and tested in a multi-year industry collaboration led by Perkins & Will, the standard has since been passed on to the U.S. Green Building Council, which added some features and integrated RELi seamlessly with the long-established LEED rating guideline and certification.

USGBC is now in the process of scaling and mainstreaming the RELi 2.0 Rating System, which offers the most holistic, all encompassing, affordable path to designing and retrofitting homes, buildings, neighborhoods and infrastructure specifically to withstand the increasingly severe ravages of extreme climate.

The benefits of becoming more resilient with RELi (pronounced “rely”) and even extending beyond it, are numerous and huge. I count 15:

  1. Minimizes business interruption and optimizes continuity.
  2. Slashes post-disaster repair, restoration and reconstruction costs (seen in the image below).
  3. The first two lead to reduced insurance outlays and premiums.
  4. Reduces the risk to your bank, thus strengthening that relationship.
  5. Speaking of banks, most property improvements for resilience are financeable, which minimizes your upfront expense, and the monthly payment is partially or wholly offset by the significant savings/gains on this list!
  6. Complements LEED in reducing operating expenses and making for a more efficient, high-performing property.
  7. Raises your property’s appraised value.
  8. Extends cutting-edge resilience to your employees, their families and neighborhoods, and other key stakeholders.
  9. Enhances your branding and makes your property more marketable, since buyers and renters are increasingly looking for climate-resilient properties.
  10. RELi calls for you to prepare your properties, whatever the type or location, not just for today’s climate risks, but more so risks as they worsen well into the future.
  11. It covers multiple climate-change types: storm, flood, drought, heat/cold wave, wildfire, sea level, plagues and more, not just the 2–3 you may be more vulnerable to or familiar with today.
  12. Establishes or becomes part of, definitely enhances, your Sustainability, Resilience & Emergency Management group and process.
  13. Integrates your properties with all surrounding communities, a critical determinant of adaptation. When it comes to the escalating climate impacts of today and tomorrow, no person or company is an island.
  14. Speaking of communities, advanced resilience creates equitable solidarity chains to care for the most vulnerable and least able to adapt their own properties and circumstances.
  15. RELi’s Applied Creativity category, combined with multiple others, can so build resilience across a city as to make it an attractive destination for people and companies migrating from harder-hit regions.

That is some list. Resilience has become an absolute slam dunk.

A process you know, made more affordable

Minimize disaster restoration costs by strengthening pre-event.

RELi has the same four certification levels as LEED: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. And just like LEED, you accumulate points as you scale up, in RELi’s case across eight categories.

To qualify for RELi, you must either already be LEED certified or register to become LEED, using a LEED AP professional. Since the purpose is resilience, you’re free to accumulate resilience-related LEED points for that certification and add points from the new rating guideline to achieve a RELi certification, so you always end up with both.

Since USGBC is rolling out RELi and looking for initial pilot projects to showcase the system, the organization’s RELi team is offering a tailored discount on the usual certification fees, a fantastic incentive for you to get started with RELi.

But then again, USGBC affordability, as handy as it comes, is not the main reason for going for it. When historians look back at this time, the years leading up to this new decade will have gone down as the moment when extreme climate not only became the new normal — or as I would suggest calling it, the new anti-normal — but more so the time when visionaries digging into the science realized it will only worsen from here and took decisive action.

The inescapable conclusion, therefore: climate adaptation is now priority #1. So disruptive of life and business has the climate crisis become and will be ever more, so unlikely the possibility of actually solving it on time, that preparing for it must now lead the sustainability conversation.

It is useful and heartening that the principal built-environment solutions to extreme climate are embedded in RELi, as they should be in any sound adaptation program — steps like distributed solar, rain harvesting, resource conservation, materials innovation, and supply-chain management — added to core adaptation improvements that allow you to become sustainable and resilient in one fell swoop.

Also, it fits right in with the leading risk-management standards in the market and models that help you deal with physical risks to your facilities.

This is, indeed, the new way to go. At our shop, we are so excited about RELi’s game-changing potential to accelerate adaptation, that we’ve made it our mission to help spread it to as many properties and neighborhoods as we can. But whether you do it with us or on your own, it behooves you to make resilience improvements a new top priority.

Go over the list of 15 again. Realize where the climate is headed. And reflect. The time for adaptation is here.

Alex Díaz, a leading thinker and analyst in the fast-emerging field of corporate climate adaptation, has a long career spanning business journalism, strategic communications, sustainability management, and stakeholder initiatives. He lives in Puerto Rico, at the entrance of the Caribbean hurricane alley, and runs adaptation studio COMMON Future, an affiliate of global social-enterprise collaborative COMMON.

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