Preservation and Climate

by Don Friedman on June 1, 2016

There are a number of intersections between historic preservation and climate change. This report from UNESCO describes the effect of climate change on a number of example sites from around the world and is the source of the recent spate of articles about the Statue of Liberty being doomed.

We’ve already seen building design react to the issue. Locally, all project filings with the New York Department of Buildings now have to include flood maps and related information, and the FEMA maps have been updated in the aftermath of the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. I expect further code-based changes in the future, with possibilities being changes in the amount of rainwater than has to be impounded as our climate gets wetter, and increases in wind loading.

From the preservation perspective, the changes are a matter of degree more than type. Weathering, material aging, and accidental loading have always been the enemies of building longevity and that doesn’t change. The causes of damage change and the specific threats change, but the basic problem of protecting buildings against physical attack that they were not designed to withstand remains.

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