Integrating resilience into university campus planning

featuring Elizabeth Foster

April 28, 2023

Making our college and university campuses more resilient to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change


Beth Foster, Page business leader and senior planner, is an expert on the pressing challenge of resilience planning for college and university campuses. Her work addresses the impacts of natural disasters and climate change. Together with Chris Smith, President of EQC Global, she co-authored an article in Planning for Higher Education, the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Journal titled Integrating Resilience Planning Into University Campus Planning: Measuring Risks and Leveraging Opportunities.

Beth has extensive experience leading campus and community master planning projects and Chris advises domestic and international clients on reducing their vulnerability to natural disasters. In the article, they explain that incorporating resilience planning into the campus planning process provides an opportunity to engage key stakeholders to address a campus’s vulnerabilities, align resilience-related investments with the broad campus vision, and ensure the long-term viability of the institution.

First, Beth and Chris identified the increased need for resilience planning, citing the rise of environmental, financial, and social impacts linked to natural hazard threats and climate change events. These vary across the United States, but no region appears to be secure. In 2013, four out of five Americans lived in counties that were hit by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster in recent years and that number is expected to increase (Resilient Communities for America, n.d.).

Many educational institutions are starting to understand the operational and financial risks posed by the increased threat of natural disasters and climate change. These can be reduced through resilience planning, mitigation measures, and prudent investment. Only a minority of universities have an approach to crisis management in the form of a business continuity plan. Universities that have invested the most in resilience planning and risk management may financially outperform their peers.

In addition, resilient campuses that are operational in times of stress are a critical element of a successful post-disaster community recovery. A comprehensive campus planning process generally follows three primary phases:

  1. Gathering data and identifying stakeholders. This provides an understanding of what is needed and develop goals.
  2. Identification and exploration of possible directions for campus development and investment.
  3. Refinement of a chosen risk reduction plan and steps required for implementation.

The above content was modified and edited for length with permission from SCUP. To see the original article in full, click here

Elizabeth FosterBeth has two decades of experience leading campus master planning projects across the U.S. for both public and private institutions. She is particularly gifted at engaging campus administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community stakeholders in the planning process. Beth is a frequent speaker at higher education conferences where she has addressed topics such as planning for resiliency and regenerative campus design.

Elizabeth Foster

Managing Director - San Francisco, Director of Campus Planning