The city of Boston is poised to approve a new regulation requiring developers of large buildings to submit plans addressing potential flooding, heatwaves, and other anticipated effects of climate change.
The regulation, to be taken up at a Boston Redevelopment Authority meeting, would force developers to respond to questions about how their buildings are designed to handle extreme weather events. While it does not prescribe specific building rules, the regulation could prevent projects from proceeding until those issues are addressed.
Officials said the rule would ensure Boston is prepared for the increased likelihood of flooding and other disasters related to rising sea levels and wide temperature fluctuations. A study last year by the US Geological Survey found seas along the US east coast from North Carolina to New England are rising three to four times faster than the global average, and that coastal cities are increasingly vulnerable to flooding.
"We feel it's responsible and important to make sure we are building the most resilient future for our city," said Brian Swett, the city's chief of energy and environment. The regulation is meant to prepare buildings to last for generations and help them deal with extreme heat and cold more efficiently, he said.
But some representatives of the real estate industry object to the regulation, saying developers are already taking steps to make sure their buildings are operating safely and efficiently.
Greg Vasil, chief executive of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said it is in the interests of developers to protect buildings against the threat of extreme weather. But the new rule would needlessly add red tape to an already lengthy review process, he said.
"It fascinates me that bureaucrats have this vision of themselves as saving development, when it's the people who build these projects who are far more skilled at assessing the risks they face," Mr Vasil said.
The regulation would affect all building projects over 1850 square metres across the city. But it would arguably have the most direct impact on those built near the waterfront.
Mr Swett and the BRA's chief planner, Kairos Shen, said Superstorm Sandy's impact in New York showed that commercial property owners were not always prepared to face a major tidal surge and other disasters. The storm, which hit in October 2012, caused more than $US50 billion in damage and shuttered some businesses for weeks.