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Earth Day 2011: Green Building Practices and Sustainability

Posted by: Edward Connor, Acting Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration 

As we celebrate Earth Day, it gives us a chance to clearly link the complementary concepts of sustainability and resilience, a fancy way to say how well communities bounce back after a disaster.   Everyday FEMA works to enhance the resilience of our communities to natural hazards by helping them to identify risk and develop appropriate strategies to reduce those risks. This includes adopting and enforcing stronger building codes, coordinating planning and preparedness exercises, and partnering with stakeholders to build safer communities.

Preventing losses and damage to buildings not only creates a safer community, but also reduces the environmental impact of post-disaster recovery operations, especially related to debris management and rebuilding. For more on the relationship between green building practices and natural hazard resistance, check out our publication on Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings.

A few other “green” highlights 
The growing emphasis on creating sustainable communities, whether though innovative green building practices or reducing the materials and energy footprints creates opportunities to build safer and greener, both before and after disasters.

By building green and taking steps to protect your property at the same time, you not only help protect the environment but also protect your property against the forces of nature.  One way FEMA promotes sustainable building practices before a disaster is by partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Efforts to build sustainably are recognized as one part of the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Program application process, to promote strategic local approaches to sustainable development by combining hazard mitigation objectives with community development objectives.

Recovery from natural disasters presents a unique opportunity to consider alternatives to the damage-rebuild-damage cycle.  To learn more about rebuilding stronger, safer, and smarter after a disaster, check out our guide to Rebuilding for a More Sustainable Future.

On Earth Day and every day, I challenge you to consider taking small steps to make your home, business or community more sustainable while reducing its risk of damage due to disasters.  For some tips to get you started, visit

To learn more about the role of green building rating systems in promoting green building practices and sustainable building design, visit the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit green building policy, education and research organization at

- Ed
Last Updated: 
06/15/2012 - 22:18


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