This spring the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services introduced the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which is focused on expanding access to science-based information on climate change and the built environment.

The toolkit includes a guide document and suite of online tools and resources that are designed to help healthcare facility operators develop sustainable and climate-resilient buildings.

Robin Guenther, a principal at Perkins+Will (New York) and coauthor of Sustainable Healthcare Architecture, cowrote a report, “Primary Protection: Enhancing Healthcare Resiliency for a Changing Climate,” featuring new insights and best practices for mitigating the effects of extreme weather on U.S. healthcare facilities. She also developed a series of checklists in the toolkit to help identify system vulnerabilities and relevant codes and regulations.

“It’s not prescriptive,” Guenther says. “Once you see your vulnerabilities, then as a hospital or system, you have to prioritize those and address them, whether it means making a physical change or enhancing a care network so you have an alternate site [during an emergency].”

Guenther says designing for future disasters and weather extremes can be a challenge because it requires hypothesizing how healthcare buildings are going to perform in the weather of 50 years from now. Despite the challenge, she says planning should be a priority, as climate change increases the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, as well as alters where they may strike.

“These things are happening in different places than they have in the past,” she says. “So design thresholds for our buildings are not necessarily applicable any longer.”

For information on the toolkit, go to

Anne DiNardo is senior editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at