OVERLAND PARK, KS / ACCESSWIRE / January 27, 2023 / As climate change burdens hurricanes, floods and droughts, US businesses are realizing the potentially high cost of vulnerability, with floods a prime example. According to a study by the First Street Foundation and Arup, approximately 730,000 residential, commercial and multi-unit properties in the United States are at risk of flood damage. The potential structural damage associated with this probabilistic flood is $13.5 billion, and work days lost could amount to $3 million. Compounding matters is that local economies would lose nearly $50 billion due to lost production and indirect impacts that create cascading effects down the economic chain.
While worst-case scenarios are ominous, the global community has ramped up the use of clean renewable energy and electric vehicles in 2022, dramatically reducing total carbon emissions. By playing their part, companies are developing sustainable and climate-adaptive business models. Black & Veatch recommends building resilience into your infrastructure and operating culture, starting with these five targeted actions:
1. Manage climate vulnerabilityClimate analytics helps companies identify the likelihood of climate hazards and the resulting impacts on their operations. With this knowledge, companies prioritize funding to adapt or mitigate their buildings, systems or functions for anticipated risk.
Recently, Black & Veatch assessed how hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions could damage the infrastructure belonging to a major East Coast utility. In-house forecasters studied 70 years of tropical systems and developed a tropical “storm scale” that measured storm intensity, overall air coverage, flooding, and impacts on the company’s service land. Black & Veatch used a combined total score index for this data to develop a recurrence interval for the utility’s current service area. This comprehensive analysis resulted in the 20-year Storm Damage Index modeled with analysis of historical storm costs.
The utility is using final storm reserve analysis to understand its vulnerability, inform adaptation and mitigation efforts, and financially plan for the potential costs of climate change. Companies can reduce their exposure with a similar application.
2. Decarbonise energy and reduce water consumptionIn the United States, the commercial sector accounts for 12% of total energy use, and some commercial facilities such as data centers use 3 to 5 million gallons of water per day. Unsurprisingly, companies often focus on resource reduction and decarbonization to reduce costs, build resilience, and decrease their impact on the environment. With the right engineering alchemy, many technologies can provide composite benefits in a single application.
Consider the Nautilus Data Center in Port of Stockton, California. The facility uses recirculated water from a nearby source to cool the data center, and the body of water becomes a heat sink. Innovative designs mean Nautilus consumes no water, produces no wastewater, and requires no refrigerants, water treatment chemicals, cooling towers, or computer room air treatment systems. The technology uses less than a third of the energy that traditional computer room air conditioning would use for cooling. Thanks to Nautilus innovation and Black & Veatch engineering, California is home to the world’s first zero-water data center.
3. Tap into ecological resilienceSustainability actions often take place within the operational boundaries of a company, community or service district. But the best plans for sustainable systems work through geography and ecology to emphasize an area’s natural resilient characteristics and work in sync with Mother Nature.
Babcock Ranch, Florida is a prime example. Hurricane Ian, the Category 4 storm that struck Florida in October, cut off power to 2.6 million Florida residents. However, shops, offices, grocery stores, restaurants and homes in Babcock Ranch experienced no power or internet outages despite being approximately 20 miles from the storm’s landfall.
At the heart of Babcock Ranch’s resilience are sustainable design engineering and construction practices. For example, previously drained cattle ranches have been allowed to revert to natural wetlands, which function as retention ponds to absorb excess rain and floodwater. Native plants make up 75 percent of the community’s landscaping, which withstands high winds and humid conditions to lessen the impacts of storms.
The Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center and Babcock Preserve Solar Energy Center are the energy hub of the community. Built on 870 acres, each center can generate 75 megawatts (MW) of clean energy capacity via 680,000 solar panels, powered by a 1 MW battery energy storage system. Despite the hurricane’s 150-mph wind gusts, Babcock Ranch’s solar panels remained intact and functional, providing resilient, decarbonized energy.
Perhaps as Mother Nature intended, communities are embracing green processes and designing natural landscapes that align with the environment, and for good reason. Roadways that direct water away from homes and businesses, resilient native vegetation, and underground power distribution cables and communications infrastructure protect critical services and functions, building resilience.
4. Use data to increase project valueWhen companies plan to develop or upgrade their infrastructure, tools such as Envision, an infrastructure assessment tool, can help. Forecast measures and track resource usage to identify options to utilize local sourcing and reduce emissions, energy and water use, optimizing project costs in the long run. Companies set and achieve environmental and resiliency goals, increasing resource management without sacrificing functionality or cost.
The data helps companies align their operations with local conditions to support regional environmental goals or reduce vulnerability to hazards. For example, wind energy is of growing interest to businesses and institutions.
Alliant Energy recently became the first wind farm developer to receive Platinum Envision verification for its Upland Prairie and English Hills projects. Black & Veatch has assembled an integrated team of accredited Envision Sustainability specialists along with environmental, water and renewable energy permitting engineering experts to deliver five large-scale wind farms totaling 470 MW across Iowa.
5. Create a culture of sustainabilityBuilding resilience often means introducing new technologies, such as an electric fleet or clean energy systems. Unless end users embrace, learn and adopt the new way of doing things, sustainable operations will not succeed, nor will they achieve the expected return on investment.
An organizational strategy to drive sustainable practices will help determine and manage operational impacts, maintain morale as new technologies are introduced, ensure staff skills evolve to support new operations, and align outcomes with objectives. A good plan clearly articulates strategic business goals and leaves room for flexibility if something goes wrong and needs to be fixed.
While the International Energy Administration indicates substantial progress in the global effort to control carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, there remains a need for greener, more resilient and adaptive infrastructure in businesses and beyond. Design and engineering innovation are driving these changes, creating cleaner, more resilient versions of essential systems that work in sync with built and natural environments.
- To read the First Street Foundation and ARUP’s flood risk assessment study, click here.
About Black & VeatchBlack & Veatch is a global employee-owned engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company with over 100 years of experience in innovation in sustainable infrastructure. Since 1915, we’ve helped our customers improve the lives of people around the world by addressing the resiliency and reliability of our most critical infrastructure assets. Our revenues in 2021 exceeded $3.3 billion. Follow us on www.bv.com and on social media.
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SOURCE: Black & Vetch