NOAA, University of Maryland, ASCE to advance climate-smart construction

The Battery Park Underpass in Manhattan, a major thruway in the city, flooded with seawater during Hurricane Sandy. This is only one example showing our nation's need for more climate-resilient infrastructure.

The Battery Park Underpass in Manhattan, a major thruway in the city, flooded with seawater during Hurricane Sandy. This is only one example showing our nation's need for more climate-resilient infrastructure. (Image credit: iStock)

The NOAA Climate Program Office has forged a partnership with the University of Maryland (UMD) Center for Technology and Systems Management and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to accelerate the development of climate-smart engineering codes and standards. 

The partnership is being announced this week as nations gather in Glasgow, United Kingdom, for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). NOAA will host a panel discussion at COP26 on November 9 on the topic of partnerships to advance climate-smart construction. The partnership between NOAA, the nation’s largest provider of climate information, ASCE, the world’s largest civil engineering professional society, and the UMD center with a focus on systems engineering, is being established to help the nation account for climate change in future infrastructure design and construction. The vast majority of building codes in the United States and abroad rely on consensus guidance provided by ASCE, the nation’s oldest engineering society. 

“This partnership can help us accelerate the move toward more climate-resilient infrastructure for the nation and globally,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “Our goal is to bring climate information into the nation’s standard-setting process to increase the pace of climate adaptation and reduce design, construction and maintenance costs as well as the costs of climate-related natural disasters.”

Samuel Graham, Ph.D., dean of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, said the partnership will help close the gap between climate change awareness and engineering practice. “Society wants and needs solutions to the world’s grand challenges like climate change; engineers will play a central role in every solution," he said. "The built environment—homes, stores and office buildings—are as affected by climate change as the natural environment and if designed improperly, help to contribute to the problems we are seeing today. Translating that knowledge into building best practices is what our new joint endeavor is all about. We're glad to partner with the government and industry to help protect people and property."

The collaboration will advance the use of NOAA-produced climate science and understanding within engineering practice for the design and construction of climate-resilient infrastructure, through developing and updating ASCE codes and standards. The partnership calls for a series of exchanges between NOAA and ASCE, which will be facilitated by the UMD Center for Technology and Systems Management.

These exchanges will make clear the needs of the engineering and standard-setting community as well as clarify the extent to which NOAA can provide the data and future weather and climate projections that are needed to update and refine codes and standards.

“ASCE fully supports the partnership with NOAA and the university,” said Tom Smith, Executive Director of ASCE. “The results will be of critical importance in supporting the development of standards for resilient infrastructure nationally and globally.”

The partnership can help create a stronger and more resilient future for a key sector in the U.S. economy. The U.S. invests an estimated $1.3 trillion annually in the design, construction, and maintenance of homes, businesses, transportation systems, industrial centers, and other components of the built environment, according to a 2020 U.S. Census Bureau report. This sector provides millions of jobs, including more than seven million jobs in construction alone as of the May 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., Distinguished Member of ASCE and director of the University of Maryland Center for Technology and Systems Management, and Dan Walker, Ph.D., associate director of the center, will facilitate the partnership between NOAA and ASCE. Both have a deep history with ASCE and will foster dialogue to bring climate change into infrastructure design and construction.

This critical work builds upon the Department of Commerce’s efforts to support the needs identified at the Climate Science and Building Codes Workshop on incorporating climate change data in U.S. Building Codes and Standards, hosted by the Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in January 2021. 

To learn more about the partnership between NOAA, ASCE and the University of Maryland, you can tune into a virtual panel discussion at COP26 on Tuesday, November 9, from 1 PM to 2 PM ET/ 6 PM to 7 PM GMT. The panel, Building Better Together: Partnerships to Advance Climate Resilience, will include NOAA's Rick Spinrad, as well as representatives from ASCE, non-profit partners and the engineering industry. It will be moderated by the University of Maryland's Bilal Ayyub. The NOAA-hosted panel will be live-streamed on the official COP26 U.S. Center YouTube channel. Go online for a full schedule of events and panels at the U.S. Center at COP26.

ASCE is a tax-exempt professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide that is headquartered in Reston, Virginia. ASCE is dedicated to the advancement of the science and profession of civil engineering and the enhancement of human welfare through the activities of society members.

The University of Maryland Center for Technology and Systems Management is housed within the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, with access to campus-wide expertise in many climate-related, environmental science, engineering and policy fields.

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Media contacts

Monica Allen, NOAA,, 202-379-6693

Robert Adrian Herschbach, University of Maryland, rherschb@umd.edu410-245-8959

Kevin Longley, American Society of Civil Engineers, klongley@asce.org202-701-8768