The NOAA Climate Program Office has forged a partnership with the University of Maryland (UMD) Center for Technology and Systems Management and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to accelerate the development of climate-smart engineering codes and standards.
The partnership is being announced this week as nations gather in Glasgow, United Kingdom, for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). NOAA hosted a panel discussion at COP26 on Nov. 9 on the topic of partnerships to advance climate-smart construction. The partnership between NOAA, a national provider of climate information, ASCE, a global civil engineering professional society, and the UMD center, with a focus on systems engineering, is being established to help the nation account for climate change in future infrastructure design and construction. The vast majority of building codes in the U.S. and abroad rely on consensus guidance provided by ASCE, one of the nation’s oldest engineering society.
“This partnership can help us accelerate the move toward more climate-resilient infrastructure for the nation and globally,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “Our goal is to bring climate information into the nation’s standard-setting process to increase the pace of climate adaptation and reduce design, construction, and maintenance costs as well as the costs of climate-related natural disasters.”
Samuel Graham, Ph.D., dean of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, said the partnership will help close the gap between climate change awareness and engineering practice. “Society wants and needs solutions to the world’s grand challenges like climate change; engineers will play a central role in every solution," he said. "The built environment—homes, stores and office buildings—are as affected by climate change as the natural environment and if designed improperly, help to contribute to the problems we are seeing today. Translating that knowledge into building best practices is what our new joint endeavor is all about. We're glad to partner with the government and industry to help protect people and property."
The collaboration will advance the use of NOAA-produced climate science and understanding within engineering practice for the design and construction of climate-resilient infrastructure, through developing and updating ASCE codes and standards. The partnership calls for a series of exchanges between NOAA and ASCE, which will be facilitated by the UMD Center for Technology and Systems Management.
These exchanges will make clear the needs of the engineering and standard-setting community as well as clarify the extent to which NOAA can provide the data and future weather and climate projections that are needed to update and refine codes and standards.
“ASCE fully supports the partnership with NOAA and the university,” said Tom Smith, executive director of ASCE. “The results will be of critical importance in supporting the development of standards for resilient infrastructure nationally and globally.”
The partnership can help create a stronger and more resilient future for a key sector in the U.S. economy. The U.S. invests an estimated $1.3 trillion annually in the design, construction, and maintenance of homes, businesses, transportation systems, industrial centers, and other components of the built environment, according to a 2020 U.S. Census Bureau report. This sector provides millions of jobs, including more than seven million jobs in construction alone as of the May 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., distinguished member of ASCE and director of the University of Maryland Center for Technology and Systems Management, and Dan Walker, Ph.D., associate director of the center, will facilitate the partnership between NOAA and ASCE. Both have a deep history with ASCE and will foster dialogue to bring climate change into infrastructure design and construction.
This critical work builds upon the Department of Commerce’s efforts to support the needs identified at the Climate Science and Building Codes Workshop on incorporating climate change data in U.S. Building Codes and Standards, hosted by the Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in January 2021. For more information, visit www.noaa.gov.