Climate Adaptation Planning and Public Life

Public life provides many co-benefits for climate adaptation and resilience projects, such as improvements in environmental quality, social connectivity, and reduction in future risks. However, measuring this impact can be complicated without specific metrics or a quantifiable scale of comparison. Our framework outlines a set of indicators to help define, identify, and quantify the effects of public life on climate adaptation projects.

Too often, infrastructure and planning practices leap to engineering or technology solutions, rather than considering social impacts in a more holistic context. With support from the Summit Foundation, we created this framework to be a useful tool for decision-makers in government and design who want to create resilient spaces that support what people want to do in those spaces.

To begin, we scanned a library of 21 existing climate adaptation frameworks. Subsequently, we interviewed authors of key frameworks to better understand how they are used in practice and what are the challenges that they face. This helped us guide the development of our framework, and ensure we address usability in practice.

The resulting framework offers a way to identify public space and public life opportunities in climate adaptation projects. It also offers guidelines for how to track success once a project is implemented. The indicators can be used as a pre- and post-intervention assessment tool for evaluating how public life participates in enhancing social resilience and quality of life, which could then fit into a future iteration of cost-benefit analysis.

What’s Next?

We hope that this framework will change practice in the urban design, engineering, and city planning sectors by encouraging more climate adaptation planning projects to integrate public life as a guiding principle into their processes and objectives. The tool assists stakeholders involved in climate adaptation efforts–including but not limited to city agencies, developers, designers, and community groups–in achieving this.

The framework is in a beta phase and will be used in the San Francisco Sea Wall public life study as a first test case. If you are interested in finding out more and/or using some of the indicators, you can download a presentation here or get in touch with us: publiclife@gehlinstitute.org. We are looking for more test sites and are always seeking to expand our community of practice.