Silver Award and National Recognition Award for Resilient Massachusetts Action Team (RMAT) Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool
At the 2023 Engineering Excellence Awards Gala on Monday March 27, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (ACEC/MA) awarded the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), along with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), Weston & Sampson Engineers, Inc., BSC Group, and Woods Hole Group, Inc. a Silver Award in engineering excellence for the Resilient Massachusetts Action Team’s (RMAT’s) Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool (the Tool). Earlier that day ACEC announced that the project has been awarded a National Recognition Award, which will be presented during the national gala in Washington, D.C. in June.
This first-in-the-nation Tool advances priority statewide interagency action items identified in the 2018 FEMA-recognized State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan to develop consistent design standards using climate projections and standardize the integration of climate vulnerability and resilience into capital planning and project evaluation. Similar urgent needs are being expressed across the world as we experience more frequent and intense extreme weather, temperatures, and rising sea levels requiring us to adapt our environment and existing practices.
This free, public-facing web-based Tool uses localized climate projections and project-specific information, provided by the user in under 30 minutes, to generate risk-based:
- Preliminary climate exposure and risk ratings
- Asset-specific recommended climate resilience design standards.
Users are provided project outputs—including expanded rationales for scores, projected values associated with design criteria (such as water surface elevations, rainfall depths, duration of heat waves, etc.), guidance for integrating the information in planning, design, and evaluation processes, and maps illustrating coastal flood risk over time—in an easy-to-understand interactive viewer. The customized information is summarized in a standardized project report format, which has already been integrated into the Commonwealth’s capital planning process, several state grant program applications, and the Massachusetts Environmental Planning Agency (MEPA) review process.
Users can create unlimited projects with any combination of proposed asset types (infrastructure, buildings, natural resources), across the Commonwealth. Users can view, copy, modify, share, and delete projects they have entered through the Tool. A “submit project” option is available so that select Commonwealth officials can view the project in an interactive map with other submitted projects across the state.
The complex, risk-based relationships that underly the Tool were guided and vetted by representatives from over 40 stakeholder groups, including state, federal, and subject matter experts, through over 30 focus/working groups over 2.5 years. This iterative feedback contributed to three version updates to the Tool, with the most recent version 1.2 released in July 2022. The Tool framework is intentionally adaptable so that it may continue to be updated as new climate projections become available.
The Tool integrates climate resilience into the planning and design of projects with physical assets across Massachusetts, but also factors in social and environmental implications by providing a preliminary indication of impact to climate vulnerable populations and the ecosystem service benefits of a project. The Tool increases access and transparency of climate information to the public; anyone with access to a computer with internet and email address can use the Tool, empowering communities to be aware of their risk and providing a standardized recommended basis-of-discussion to implement actionable climate resilience. The Tool and supporting resources are free and accessible on the Massachusetts Climate Change Clearinghouse: https://resilientma.mass.gov/rmat_home/designstandards.
"Information is power, and we want to empower communities across Massachusetts with the data they need to make informed decisions about climate resiliency. We’re proud to have led the team that developed an award-winning online climate resiliency tool. The Healey-Driscoll Administration will continue to seek out ways to support our residents as we adapt to the climate crisis."
– Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Tepper