Transportation systems provide the foundation of daily economic and social activity as well as aspects of health, education, culture and more. Negative and costly impacts from a changing climate can cause significant disruptions and damages.
Roads are highly susceptible to climate change damages. Increases in heat threaten asphalt pavement integrity through increased cracking and softness. Increases in precipitation may cause flooding, cracking and standing water. Freeze-thaw cycles can deteriorate roads fast and require increased maintenance. Over time, these changes become increasingly costly if adaptation steps are not undertaken.
Railroads, bridges, airports, and coastal transportation assets are all vulnerable to climate change. Whether you are an owner of transportation assets or dependent on these assets for business operations, understanding the risk to transportation assets is critical to business operations.
A critical question for asset managers is concerning the economic viability of assets: how can transport infrastructure withstand climate changes that require new engineering design, preparation and maintenance?
Understanding the impacts of climate change can help cities identify vulnerabilities, adapt to projected changes and ensure viability of road networks. Resilient Analytics has global experience in road network analysis, adaptation and climate-wise investment strategies.
National Case Study
In a large-scale, national study, Resilient Analytics analyzed the effects of climate change on the national road network for the US EPA. This analysis found that effects including temperature increases, precipitation changes, freeze-thaw cycles, and changes in flooding patterns would have an impact on the national road network of between $150-$230 billion. Additionally, 75,000 bridges will need additional adaptation measures by 2050. The national rail network is also vulnerable with $40-$50 billion of damages expected to the network.
Local Case Study
In a case study focusing on detailed infrastructure analysis, Resilient Analytics worked with the Hillsborough, Florida MPO to provide input on the adaptation measures that could be considered for an essential emergency access route. The study combined an analysis of projected climate impacts at a local level with recommendations for potential adaptation options. The study demonstrated that the same concepts utilized at a national level could be applied with equal impact at a detailed local level.
Resilient Analytics provides robust analysis of the vulnerabilities, adaptation options and specific actions to reduce the risk of climate change impacts on building asset. From hospitals to office buildings, high-rise apartments to schools - a detailed analysis can answer critical questions including:
Any disruption in building operation can result in significant impacts on daily economic and social activity and pose challenges in emergency situations. Buildings are vulnerable to climate changes in a variety of ways. Increased precipitation can damage roof drainage systems; changes in humidity and temperature directly affect air conditioning and indoor air quality; changes in temperature can effect the energy use of the building, often increasing costs of energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
Addressing these impacts can result in high financial costs and loss of use. Life-cycle analysis is particularly important for buildings because they are designed to operate for 30-50 years and longer.
Identifying vulnerabilities, adaptation measures and energy saving options can improve the operation of buildings throughout their life-cycle, despite climate change impacts. Resilient Analytics leverages industry expertise, building-specific knowledge and a range of IPCC-approved climate models to provide specific guidance to owners, managers and operators of facilities.
In a unique example of combining multiple threats to buildings in a single analysis, Resilient Analytics combined the effects permafrost thaw, precipitation change, temperature change, and flooding projections to analyze public buildings in Alaska. In this study, Resilient Analytics analyzed buildings in multiple climate zones and geographic locations to determine potential damages as well as adaptation opportunities. The study found that Alaska is facing over $1.5 billion in damages to its public buildings from the multiple threats of climate change.
Reducing energy usage and costs is an important component of sustainable development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In many areas, changes in temperature and humidity threaten these efforts by increasing the energy demand for winter heating, summer cooling, and peak demand changes.
By estimating these changes, individual buildings energy performance can be evaluated and, where necessary, adjusted for increased efficiency in mechanical equipment, building envelope, behavior change and other actions.
Energy performance is calculated using cooling and heating degree days (CDD, HDD). Using Department of Energy classifications for building types, more than 140 default building types can be evaluated. IPSS can also make specific adjustments for individual building factors.
Building type, date of construction, occupancy and usage, and climate zone all affect building performance. Climate changes for the geographic region are applied through 2100 to determine cost-effective investments and energy conservation options. In most locations, local fuel costs are available to estimate cost increases from energy demand. These can be adjusted to reflect future projections or specific considerations.
Resilient Analytics analyzed 4,895 public buildings throughout Boulder County, CO to determine potential risks from climate change in terms of energy demand as well as physical impacts. The study used historic records of energy usage together with projected changes in temperature to determine impacts on both heating and cooling loads. The analysis determined that increased precipitation events would impact the physical design of the buildings. Additionally, the overall demand for energy would increase as a 45% increase in cooling loads by 2030 would outweigh the savings gained by decreased heating loads.
Supporting the specific sector work is Resilient Analytics capabilities in modeling natural hazard risks. Resilient Analytics models risks of wildfire, floods, drought, as well as having close partners with extensive coastal flooding and sea level rise modeling capabilities. This extensive modeling capability provides the opportunity for clients to determine potential effects of multiple natural hazards with and without climate change projections.
The addition of natural hazard concerns provides clients with projections of additional damage to physical assets in terms of geographic location. Projections of increased wildfire concerns are combined with estimates of additional infrastructure vulnerabilities. Similarly, increases in drought projections provide insights into impacts on water supply and flood potential.
Projected changes in precipitation and temperature have potentially significant impacts on public health in terms of issues such as allergies and asthma from extended growing seasons, increased health effects from extreme heat days, and potential increases in vector-borne diseases from droughts and heat. These health concerns will have significant impacts on the need for additional physical asset investment such as increased cooling center requirements or retrofitting schools to protect young children from increased temperatures. Resilient Analytics can include these public health concerns in its overall impact assessments.
Projected changes in climate are a specific concern for historic structures and sites. Significant changes in precipitation and temperature can complicate conservation efforts as environmental changes will alter the ability of historic structures to withstand future environments. Resilient Analytics is providing groundbreaking work in addressing the unique needs of historic preservationists and the owners of historic sites to determine appropriate strategies for preserving historic structures into the next century.
Image from The Colorado Chautauqua Association