Disasters linked to climate change such as the flooding in Houston are likely to reoccur and may even occur at a greater magnitude. This must be understood when recovery programs are put in place. There is the temptation to recreate existing urban patterns and rebuild houses and roads much as they were before. This, however, will only result in the same impacts being experienced again.
To avoid this, redevelopment must be different and there must be learning from the climate change event. An example of this approach is provided in guidance developed for Hurricane Harvey and Houston. Here the guidance can be summarised in the following steps:
- Identify areas that did not flood. This should be the backbone of new development.
- Identify areas that have flooded multiple times and are likely to continue to be flooded. Work with homeowners in these areas to move to safer areas and do not redevelop these areas for housing.
- Identify areas that may experience limited flooding. These can be transitional areas which act as buffers and help reduce the impact of flooding.
- Model the extreme climate change events that may occur and incorporate these into planning, policy, and regulations to make sure that all new development is planned, designed, constructed and managed to be resilient to these events. Ensure guidance is reflected in practical measures related to issues such as location, foundation design, levels, drainage, and materials. Ensure measures are adopted and that no ‘shortcuts’ are taken.
- Provide clear information that ensures that stakeholders in new developments fully understand the potential impacts of future climate change events. This may include physical markers and maps indicating possible future flooding levels.
This type of approach is valuable as it ensures that redevelopment is resilient to future climate change events and avoids the situation where communities re-experience devasting impacts.