Hurricane Sandy Program

Resiliency Planning

  • “Gap analyses” of town plans of conservation and development, emergency operations plans, hazard mitigation plans, and coastal resiliency plans
  • GIS data on vulnerable historic resources based on flood zones and sea level rise projections
  • Meetings with five regional Councils of Government and twenty-eight municipalities
  • Guidance on integrating preservation into resiliency planning for statewide planners, municipal planners, and property owners
Resiliency planning assistance to regional and local governments

After Hurricane Sandy, the SHPO made resiliency planning for historic resources a priority. To support this objective, the SHPO engaged R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. (RCG&A), along with its subcontractors Dewberry and Milone & MacBroom, to develop a progressive program to assist Connecticut’s regional Councils of Government (COGs) and shoreline municipalities. The program’s components included data collection and mapping, outreach to planning officials in the four-county target area, audits of existing plans, and the development of a best practices guide for planners that integrates historic resource preservation and natural hazard resilience. The goal: to ensure that Connecticut’s cities and towns consider historic preservation in their plans for hazard mitigation, resiliency, and disaster recovery.


To encourage municipalities to adopt a proactive approach, RCG&A, Milone & MacBroom, Dewberry, and the SHPO held a series of charrettes with regional and local planners representing the five coastal COGs. Consultants and SHPO staff discussed the importance of incorporating historic preservation concerns into hazard mitigation and resiliency planning. After the charrettes, consultants and the SHPO held meetings with planners and local preservation advocates in each of the state’s 28 direct-shoreline communities.


Consultants also prepared “gap analyses”—reports based on audits of individual towns’ plans—tailored to COGs and municipalities. They examined a host of plans and documents drafted by each of the local governments, reviewing hazard mitigation plans, plans of conservation and development, coastal resilience plans, national flood insurance program ordinances and/or regulations, historic preservation ordinances, and emergency operations plans. While reviewing these documents, the historic preservation team determined the extent to which towns took into account historic preservation while planning for natural hazards.


Data on vulnerable historic resources in coastal zones

RCG&A created a GIS (geographic information system) that contains data on some 50,000 historic properties in the four coastal counties (of which somewhat more than 36,000 are buildings and other structures, the remainder being archaeological sites). The GIS map and underlying database are based on the thousands of paper records held at the SHPO’s office and the Office of the State Archaeologist. These files were scanned, the locations were mapped, and the accompanying information was digitally transferred to the database.


The GIS includes layers that show coastal historic resources at risk of flooding from storm events and/or sea level rise. The data on flood zones was obtained from FEMA, while areas at risk from a three- or six-foot rise in sea level were based on projections from the University of Connecticut’s Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRCA). A significant portion of the state’s coastal historic resources, approximately 11 percent, is at risk from flooding.


Historic resource resiliency planning in Connecticut

Recognizing the benefits of integrating historic preservation into state and local planning, the SHPO made resiliency a goal in its most recent Connecticut State Historic Preservation Plan (2018). RCG&A’s report, titled Historic Resource Resilience Planning in Connecticut: Strengthening State and Local Plans in an Era of Climate Change, synthesizes lessons learned in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and presents recommendations for incorporating preservation values in the state-level resiliency planning process. The report provides the basis for the SHPO’s resiliency goal, and portions of it are excerpted as an appendix in the State Historic Preservation Plan.


The report defines the four key steps of resilience used by planners—prepare, withstand, recover, adapt—and summarizes the work the historic preservation team led by RCG&A did to analyze coastal communities’ planning documents and how the team brought consideration of historic resources to planners’ attention. It discusses types of historic resources and summarizes the number and types of resources in each coastal county and municipality. And it includes analyses of how historic resources are—or are not—taken into account within various disaster planning frameworks.

Best practices guide for municipal planners

RCG&A, Milone & MacBroom, and Dewberry also produced a Best Practices Guide for municipal planners on behalf of the SHPO. This illustrated guide aims give planners ideas about how to integrate historic resources into resiliency planning, with examples. The guide makes the case that preserving historic resources is a worthy goal for communities and describes a variety of tools and methods meant to assist town planners, historic district commissions, and preservation advocates with the preservation of historic resources. While the booklet is aimed at the coastal counties, many of its tips and conclusions are applicable to towns throughout the state.


The guide makes the case that resiliency measures can recognize and support preservation, and vice versa. National organizations and federal bodies, including the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have advocated for such an approach, demonstrating, for example, the links between higher property values and historic preservation, and environmental conservation and historic preservation.


Like the Resiliency Guide, the Best Practices Guide recommends that planners follow the four key steps of the resiliency planning cycle: prepare, withstand, recover, and adapt. To adopt this approach, historic resources must be identified (as through survey and nomination to local, state, and federal registers of historic places), their vulnerabilities must be identified, and historic resources should be integrated into hazard mitigation and planning. There are also four “quick look” tables guiding planners in various aspects of the integration process. These consist of recommendations for local historic preservation integration into plans: 

  • PREPARE by identifying historic resources and their vulnerabilities
  • WITHSTAND by implementing plans, enforcing design and construction standards and educating stakeholders;
  • RECOVER after disaster through implementation of recovery protocols for historic resources;
  • and ADAPT by coordinating with state and regional agencies, monitoring and maintaining historic assets, and understanding options to adapt historic properties.
Guidance for owners of historic properties

This illustrated booklet provides guidance to owners of historic properties and the public on measures to adapt historic buildings in coastal Connecticut to the risks of climate change. It describes approaches for cyclical monitoring and provides suggestions to property owners for developing solutions applying best conservation and preservation practices. Titled Resilient Stewardship: Preserving Your Historic Property in an Era of Climate Change, it is the third guide in the resiliency planning series produced by RCG&A as part of the SHPO’s Hurricane Sandy program (along with Best Practices and Historic Resource Resiliency).


The guide emphasizes anticipated conditions that will lead to degradation and material deterioration over time. Its guidance is targeted, pragmatic, reversible, and develops progressive levels of intervention. For example, the anticipated cycle of storms of increasing intensity poses increased potential for water infiltration at building eaves related to formerly adequate but now overloaded gutter systems.


Increasing the size of eave gutters and extending drainpipes away from buildings along with regular maintenance may be an appropriate preservation solution. Intensive rain also may result in precipitation splash-back of greater intensity leading to water migration through the building face, contributing to rising damp in foundation systems. Corrections to grading, removal of foundation plantings that trap moisture, supplemental surface drains and landscaping away from the structure with native species are other examples of the kinds of practical strategies presented in this “how-to” booklet.


The booklet focuses on those aspects of climate change most relevant to maintaining historic buildings, and its recommendations are accompanied by suggestions for further reading on topics such as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties and object- or material-specific guides for treating, replacing, and protecting historic building elements.