Element 5: Environmental Protection and Strengthening of Ecosystems
Tasks for Element 5:
- Protect and support ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate extreme weather hazards that may threaten your building or campus. Green infrastructure practices, heat island mitigation, and enhanced stormwater management are key contributory strategies.
- Understand that ecosystems, wildlife corridors, and natural hydrology patterns extend beyond individual property boundaries; engage the broader community in applying best design practices for adapting to extreme weather risks in order to mitigate future damages to property and people.
Support local ecosystems
Healthy ecosystems support life and health. The United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment states: “ecosystems are critical to human well-being—to our health, our prosperity, our security, and to our social and cultural identity.” Ecosystem services include vegetation and soil organisms and non-living elements, such as bedrock, water, and air. Property owners may be unaware of critical community infrastructure vulnerabilities, ranging from dams, levees, and flood control systems to disrupted stream flow and the impacts of high density development on outdoor ambient temperatures.
This Element explores how sustainable development practices can improve the operation of functioning ecosystems and how sustainable practices improve resilience. The following ecosystem service strategies should be supported as a component of resilience planning:
- Treating water as a resource: Eliminate unnecessary irrigation and harvest rainwater (where possible). Improve groundwater infiltration, filter stormwater, and reduce runoff.
- Valuing soils: Practice sustainable landscaping methods. This extends to supporting local and sustainable agricultural systems, serving healthy food, and modeling this behavior for the larger community.
- Preserving and enhancing vegetative cover and open space: Maintain wildlife corridors, habitat, wetlands, and reduce development footprint. Minimize heat-island impacts.
- Pollution prevention initiatives: Effective waste management systems, including chemical management protocols, that both reduce the hazardous waste stream and keep these pollutants out of the environment is important.
The Element 5 Checklist assists health care organizations in assessing site and infrastructure adaptation efforts. It includes questions about pollution prevention initiatives, ecosystem protection and restoration, and participation in community climate adaptation efforts.
Download the Element 5 Checklist:
Key resources (external links)
Stormwater Management Best Practices: Access EPA resources based upon Integrated Management Practices for design, construction, and management of stormwater systems.
Green Infrastructure for Climate Resiliency: Find a range of tools and resources that can assist property owners manage floodwaters, prepare for drought, reduce urban heat island impacts, reduce demand for energy and potable water, and protect coastlines.
The Case for Sustainable Landscapes: Any landscape holds the potential to improve and regenerate the natural benefits and services provided by ecosystems in their undeveloped state. This guide presents the case for developing landscapes that enhance ecosystem services.
Download a document (PDF) with these and additional Element 5 resource links.