Infrastructure Resiliency

Promoting climate resilient building codes, infrastructure design manuals, and best practices that are co-beneficial with energy efficiency initiatives and climate resilience can foster effective improvements to infrastructure throughout Howard County.

Buildings & Critical Infrastructure

Best Practices

Commercial and residential buildings, roads, bridges, and other built infrastructure may be ill-equipped to withstand the stress of more intense heat waves, extreme storms, flooding, and other anticipated climate hazards. Building codes, design standards, and best practices that improve resiliency of these structures include: 

  • Energy efficiency practices
  • Climate-resilient construction materials
  • Weatherization techniques
  • Flood resistance measures
  • A highly trained workforce to repair critical equipment in emergencies
  • On-site energy generation (including solar and battery storage) to better withstand extreme weather, flooding, and extended power outages.

Buildings & Critical Infrastructure

Climate Impacts on Infrastructure

Intense heatwaves and related prolonged power outages are likely to become more frequent due to climate-related extreme weather and associated increased demand on the electric utility grid. At the same time, climate change hazards such as heat waves and flooding make uninterrupted access to public safety and community resources even more critical. Power outages and extreme temperatures also put increased demand on highly skilled technicians who can install, repair, and maintain HVAC systems, generators, and microgrids.

Retrofits of existing buildings and other infrastructure to reduce energy demand and improve resiliency to heat and flooding should prioritize buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure critical to public health and safety and that provide services to under-resourced communities.

Resilient Buildings

Leading by Example: Green Building Codes

Howard County has led the state with climate-forward code. For example, Howard County first required electric vehicle charging stations for new multi-family dwelling units in 2019, which is now included in the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code. As of 2022, Howard County has adopted all the most recent versions of international building codes, except for the International Green Construction Code overlay. 

The adoption of modern building codes is rare among local jurisdictions in the United States, prompting a new federal effort to increase adoption of modern building codes, called the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes.

Heat Island Reduction

Heat Island Effect

Heat is one of the most dangerous climate hazards to human health. Urban heat islands, the result of dark, heat absorbing surfaces like asphalt streets and parking lots can add anywhere from 6°F to 12°F of additional heat. Reducing heat islands will have important health co-benefits as well, as heat can exacerbate other health issues such as COPD and asthma.

Thoughtfully planting native drought- and heat-resistant trees will also reduce watering needs and maintenance costs as average temperatures climb and extreme heat events become more prevalent. Shade structures and cool surface products are other methods that should be researched and utilized, particularly where trees are not feasible.

Heat Island Reduction

Extreme Heat & Equity

Underserved populations will be the most affected by extreme heat. In addition, extreme heat can disproportionately impact highly sensitive groups such as people with breathing issues and the elderly. People with lower incomes also can suffer more from extreme heat because they often occupy older buildings and may not have adequate cooling systems or options for backup power in case of outages. 

Increasing shade trees, shade structures and cool surfaces within heat vulnerable areas will bring equity into this implementation process. Increased tree canopy also has other physical and mental health benefits which should be equitable among communities.

Heat Island Reduction

Leading by Example: Tree Canopy & Shade Structures

Howard County Recreation and Parks has several tree planting projects that involve the public, including Turf to Trees, Stream ReLeaf, the Annual Tree Giveaway, and Students Branching Out. As of 2023, Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks is starting a new Tree Canopy program that prioritizes underserved and lower tree canopy areas.

The County has also built some shade structures in parks and installed solar canopies. Parking lot solar canopies have been installed at the Little Patuxent Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Ken Ulman building, and one more is underway at the East Columbia Library.