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Climate Resilient Design Guidelines

We’re addressing flooding due to sea level rise and storm surge to protect the public right-of-way.

The guidelines provide a design process for evaluating flood barriers to protect Boston's public rights-of-way.  In addition, for four sample barrier types, the report provides: 

  • example engineering and design considerations
  • preliminary cost estimates, and
  • operations and maintenance guidance.

The guidelines can also be used to evaluate and design flood barriers for the protection of private property.  

Designing flood protection

Design process

Flood barrier opportunities are being identified during Climate Ready Boston neighborhood studies and other projects around the City.  The approach for flood barrier selection should include a unified vision for waterfront protection and public improvement. The guidelines are organized to intuitively lead users through the process of designing flood protection for projected climate conditions while evaluating applicable design considerations, operation and maintenance procedures, and related costs.

Read an overview of barrier types under Appendix A.

Read about sample specifications for climate resilient flood barriers under Appendix G.

The guidelines are focused on food protection and barriers, a combination of adaptation planning strategies should be considered for all designs. This is not a comprehensive list of all factors that will be taken into account for design but is intended to help design professionals consider how climate change will impact design and what additional studies will be needed to advance a conceptual barrier design. Additionally, the Climate Ready Boston principles of effectiveness,  feasibility, design life and adaptability, social impacts, equity, value creation, and environmental impact should be considered for all projects as part of the design process. 

Image for design process

Read more about general design considerations under Appendix B.

Proper operations and maintenance activities are critical to the performance of flood protection structures and reducing risk. Each sample flood barrier identifies operations and maintenance associated with design features. Stormwater management behind barriers may require significant capital and annual costs. An opinion of probable construction costs and annual costs are prepared for each sample barrier.

The conceptual barrier will either be advanced, or modified based on design, operations and maintenance, and cost considerations. Additional feasibility studies and respective costs should be identified to advance design and steps towards implementation. Designers may consider redevelopment of the area, system redundancy, short-term versus long-term approaches, permitting strategy, and incremental phasing with a timeline for adaptation. Each sample flood barrier provides a discussion on feasibility, incremental adaptation, and recommended next steps.

Want to give feedback?

We plan to make our guideline an online living document. It will be updated with new information as climate projections are revised and projects are built.

Feel free to provide comments on the report. Comments will be collected by the Boston Public Works Department and considered for the second revision of the report. 

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