On Wednesday, August 5th, A Better City hosted an ABC Conversation with Mia Mansfield, the Director of Climate Adaptation and Resilience at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to learn what the Resilient MA Action Team (RMAT) is doing to develop climate resilience design standards and a screening tool for state projects.
In her role at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Mia Mansfield directs the implementation of Massachusetts’ 2018 State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP), focusing on two key bodies of work: the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program (MVP program), and the RMAT, an inter-agency team tasked with implementing the 2018 SHMCAP across state agencies. Most recently, RMAT developed climate resilience design standards and a climate resilience evaluation tool for state agencies to use in state projects, with the intention that this tool could also be used by other stakeholders down the track. This meeting was requested with our members as they seek stakeholder input into the design standards and evaluation tool to date.
The MVP Program is a two-phase grant program that supports municipalities across Massachusetts in the funding of municipal vulnerability plans and priority actions. Thus far, 82% of municipalities across the commonwealth have participated in the MVP program. MVP focuses on three core areas: planning, nature-based solutions, and resilience through redesign and retrofits for critical facilities. By releasing a set of state-level climate design standards and a climate resilience evaluation tool, the RMAT will help to guide the implementation of MVP projects and ensure consistent approaches to resiliency across the state.
RMAT was formed in Fall 2019 and is responsible for 108 separate hazard mitigation and climate adaptation actions across agencies as defined in the SHMCAP. One of those actions includes the development of design standards and guidance for resilience, as well as recommendations on how such design standards could be piloted and inform the state’s capital planning process moving forward. A series of interagency working groups have designed draft guidelines, which will be available for review in an official public comment period to begin in the next few weeks. RMAT will review and incorporate public comments received this fall, for a launch of the climate resilience guidelines and evaluation tool online in early 2021.
RMAT’s goal is that the climate-resilient design guidelines and associated evaluation tool will provide a consistent methodology and approach for agencies (and private stakeholders down the track) to utilize climate change data in their design of projects, particularly as they relate to physical assets. This methodology will use the best available climate science for Massachusetts in project design and will develop tangible and action-oriented best practices that agencies can use immediately in practice. The standards and practices are designed to be adaptable and customizable over time. In this way, RMAT aims to provide guidance for next year’s capital planning process in Massachusetts. The climate-resilient design guidelines would be piloted through infrastructure grant programs like MVP. Ideally,
RMAT has 3 components:
The standards and evaluation tool incorporate 3 major asset categories: buildings, infrastructure, and natural resources. The web-based tool will output customized design standards that demonstrate how exposed a particular project is to various climate impacts and can give designers a tiered classification framework for project prioritization that provides a sense of how to phase in climate-resilient design throughout a project’s lifetime.
The climate-resilient design standards will be released as guidance for best practices, rather than binding regulations and are geared towards state-owned asset classes like roads, bridges, MBTA assets, and other critical infrastructure. Ultimately, RMAT hopes the climate-resilient project evaluation tool could be used by anyone pursuing construction and development in Massachusetts since the tool includes a customized risk rating for projects based on site-specific project inputs and exposure.
RMAT will be hosting a public review period on its climate-resilient design guidelines that will start at the end of August-early September 2020. A Better City will share relevant information on how to access these materials and provide feedback in the coming weeks.
RMAT is specifically looking for public input on how the evaluation tool works, whether or not it gets users, like designers and engineers, the information they need in a timely fashion, what else is needed to productively use this tool, and more generally, how it could be improved in the future.
For more information on RMAT and its progress on the 108 SHMCAP action items, please visit the commonwealth’s climate resilience online clearinghouse at www.resilientma.org.
For a recording of our ABC Conversation with Mia Mansfield, is available here. Password: Fa99*&.J