Climate Resilient Home Adaptation Tool

In 2019, the municipalities of Edmonton, St. Albert, Wetaskiwin, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Devon, Stony Plain, and Strathcona County in Alberta partnered with the All One Sky Foundation to ultimately address the impacts of climate change on invasive species management, water security, trees and forests, and home resilience through the production of resources and tools. The group identified regional adaptation priorities through participation in a series of collaborative workshops. Within these workshops participating municipalities examined their vulnerabilities to climate impacts and subsequently prioritized the aforementioned impacts as in need of action. The Climate Resilience Exchange project, led by The All One Sky Foundation, resulted in the development of a number of resources and tools including the Climate Resilient Home adaptation tool. This tool provides tangible advice as to how to better prepare homes for the impacts of wildfire, extreme weather, flooding, and a changing environment. The aim of the Climate Resilient Home tool is to serve as an education and outreach instrument, and provide a road map to help homeowners, builders, municipal staff and elected officials make investment and policy decisions to improve the climate resiliency of homes. While the tool is a product of the Alberta based project, it retains applicability across regions thanks to the wide range of impacts it addresses. The project was funded as part of FCM’s Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program’s Climate Adaptation Partner Grants.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The Climate Resilient Home tool was created as part of a larger project called the Regional Climate Resilience Exchange which included municipalities from across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and was supported through direction from All-One-Sky and supplementary support from consultants and academic institutions to identify vulnerabilities and take action. A regional approach was chosen in part thanks to its ability to better avoid a scenario known as maladaptation whereby actions which benefit one municipality may increase risks for others. The project began by taking stock of the most pressing climate vulnerabilities in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. In order to do so, background research was conducted, and interviews were undertaken with the participating municipalities by the project lead. Once a baseline understanding of regional vulnerabilities was achieved, a ‘current state’ document was produced which helped to inform later steps in the program including the prioritization of vulnerabilities. The project engaged in additional research which was undertaken to address knowledge gaps identified by the participating municipalities. This research endeavoured to gain a more detailed understanding as to the effect of climate change on the area’s water security, trees and forests, and invasive species and pests. Resource pooling among the participants was said to have enabled such research.

Identifying Actions

Actions were identified in relation to prioritized vulnerabilities which had begun to be identified in earlier research and gap analysis phases of the Climate Resilience Exchange Project. Participating municipalities were then brought together for a collaborative workshop in the fall of 2018 in order to come to mutual agreement as to those vulnerabilities which could best be addressed through concerted efforts as well as to identify actions which could be immediately implemented. With vulnerabilities prioritized, including those related to trees and forests, invasive species and pests, water security, and local residences, the participating municipalities embarked on a process of formulating appropriate actions. While the municipalities had sole voting rights pertaining to a wide variety of project aspects such as which research themes were addressed and ultimately the tools developed, decisions were informed through input from the non-profit host, research institutions and private consultancies. Those actions identified included the production of best practices guides pertaining to the management of invasive species and pests, urban forest management in a changing climate, and mainstreaming climate change into water management. Aside from these guidance documents, the Climate Resilient Home webpage and tool was also launched to assist homeowners in finding ways to increase the resilience of their homes to the impacts of climate change through targeted retrofits or new home construction. The Climate Resilience Exchange Project was completed in the fall of 2019 however efforts are being made to retain momentum for regional collaboration.

Implementation

The output of the Climate Resilience Exchange Project included publicly available best practice guides on topics such as water security and urban forest management, the former of which was produced by the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative along with Associated Engineers and provides an overview of the topic, an analysis of recent water levels in the areas local river and stream system, and finally provides a number of options for municipalities to address water security concerns practically. The project has also produced a best practice guide to invasive species management in a changing climate which also included a concise overview and succinct direction for municipalities. Finally, the project also enabled the introduction of the Climate Resilient Home webpage and tool. Climate Resilient Home serves as an education and outreach tool, and provides a road map to help homeowners, builders, municipal staff and elected officials make investment and policy decisions to improve the climate resiliency of homes. It achieves this by providing tangible and clear instruction as to how to best prepare for a variety of climate change impacts (such as flooding, wildfire, extreme weather, and a changing environment) through new home construction or retrofitting. Strategies include informed design and adjustments to rooves, windows and doors, exterior walls, foundations, and landscape. While these materials and tools were released online in the latter part of 2019, their content is directly informed by research undertaken on priority vulnerabilities throughout the span of the project beginning in the fall of 2018. Funding was made available to the project through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program’s partner grants.

Outcomes and Monitoring

There is currently no clear indication as to the results which have accompanied the introduction of the Climate Resilient Home tool such as user rates or integration of the tool’s principals within municipal design standards amongst those in the Edmonton Metropolitan Area or beyond. Despite this, the project highlights a number of benefits which have accompanied their approach (regional collaboration) including their ability to effectively identify and fill research gaps, build capacity among a large number of municipalities and stakeholders, and leverage economies of scale by spreading fixed costs related to adaptation (such as project management and administrative costs) among participants.

Next Steps

While next steps were not elaborated, best practice guides produced related to water scarcity as well as invasive species and pests in a changing climate may be utilized by municipalities to strengthen their approaches to the topics. Further, the Climate Resilient Home tool will remain to inform residential design which is cognizant to a wide range of climate impacts.

Resources