A recent Boston Globe Editorial, “After a near-miss with Sandy, more preparations are needed,” advocated for policy makers to focus on climate adaptation measures to protect Boston from future storms and flooding. NAIOP wholeheartedly supports convening public and private interests to discuss short-term and long-term solutions that are practical and feasible.
An important first step would be to create incentives for building owners and developers that would make climate change planning part of their design process. Focusing on carrots instead of sticks will be an important first step in changing the way some in the industry view this issue. As an example, we should be encouraging, not penalizing, the relocation of utility spaces to upper floors. This relatively simple step would have preserved many of the systems that were destroyed in New York and New Jersey. However, current codes do not exempt these areas from the allowable building envelope, causing landlords to worry about losing rentable space to mechanical equipment. A change should be made that would provide additional square footage for those developers that commit to doing this.
The Globe editorial suggested that restrictions be put on ground-floor uses in areas that will be prone to flooding. However, as with the scenario above, it is critical that the impact of decreased rental income and increased construction costs be mitigated. Furthermore, some of our current laws would prevent such a policy. As an example, our Chapter 91 statute mandates the use of the first floor space for public access.
Yes, we need to find ways to efficiently prepare our coastal cities for the increased frequency of powerful storms, but we should also be ready to adjust our policies to incentivize the public and private sectors to make appropriate infrastructure and building redesigns, not penalize them with red tape and unnecessary costs.