Develop metrics for rating the resilience of infrastructure

The Challenge

While cities and the private sector have an interest in ensuring that infrastructure is resilient to future shocks and stressors, there is no common framework for determining how to design “resilient” infrastructure. Recognizing that infrastructure solutions are varied, and must be designed to address unique site-specific conditions, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard for resilience infrastructure is impossible. Yet, project designers and decision-makers at all levels of government and the private sector need common metrics to ensure the infrastructure systems we are investing in today will continue to provide critical functions and services over the long term. Decision makers also need metrics to help design projects that can more cost-efficiently deliver multiple community benefits, rather than projects that serve a single purpose.

The Opportunity

Federal agencies should develop a framework for rating and evaluating resilient infrastructure design. The framework should serve as a best practice guide to help cities design, build and operate infrastructure to ensure its long-term viability and to deliver other environmental, economic, and social benefits, where feasible. Once a rating systems is designed, federal agencies should then condition the receipt of federal funds on projects meeting a required resilience rating.

A rating framework would help agencies ensure that federally funded projects are evaluated consistently, and that federal investments are yielding resilient infrastructure systems. This consistency could, over the long term, create more efficiency and reduce operating and insurance costs, as well as mitigate risk.

The rating system should:

  • Include metrics to help decision makers evaluate the factors of infrastructure resilience.
  • Establish risk tolerance guidelines and help project designers incorporate risk mitigation.
  • Address both future shocks and stresses, including sea level rise, extreme heat and changing precipitation patterns.
  • Help design and develop infrastructure investments that provide multiple benefits, including projects that deliver: improvements to infrastructure and the environment (including promoting reliable communication and mobility; ensuring continuity of critical services; providing and enhancing natural and man-made assets); health and well-being (including air quality and water quality); economy and society (including financial systems and job opportunities); leadership and strategy (including engaging and empowering community stakeholders).
  • Include guidance on how cities can rehabilitate or incorporate resilience into existing infrastructure, or integrate resilience into asset management planning.
  • Complement other sustainability rating systems that address specific infrastructure types (e.g. roads or ports) or can be incorporated into them (as the Water Environment Federation has done with Envision).
  • Include a life-cycle benefit cost assessment (see Strategy above in this chapter).
  • Help decision makers prioritize community needs to ensure that investments made in infrastructure systems are efficient, equitable and risk-based.
  • Require compliance with local, state and federal law.

This resilience framework could help agencies align resilience goals across infrastructure-related programs, and serve as a best-practice guide to help educate stakeholders (e.g., city officials, planners, engineers, the public) about the multiple benefits of resilient infrastructure systems.

Action Steps

Legislative

Congress should direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work with federal agencies, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and other private sector standard-developing organizations, to develop or identify certifications for resilient infrastructure that also pinpoint to a consistent and authoritative set of climate information to be used.

Once a framework is identified, Congress should require its use in appropriation bills, such as the water resources developments acts, military appropriations and transportation reauthorization bills.

Congress should require agencies to prioritize projects that achieve higher resilience scores when awarding funds for infrastructure projects through discretionary competitive grant programs such as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER).

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