Climate Resilient Land Use: Design Standards and Guidelines

Climate Resilient Land Use Strategies_pano
Climate Resilient Land Use: Design Standards and Guidelines

Design Standards and Guidelines

Design standards and guidelines provide an opportunity to incorporate a wide variety of requirements and recommendations to implement resilient and sustainable strategies. Design guidelines can help educate and inform property owners and developers of best and emerging practices, and they should be leveraged to make buildings more climate-resilient. 

This page provides short summaries of key features of regulations based on desktop review. Links to the regulations are provided below. Conduct careful review when considering adopting new language. The resources included do not constitute legal advice. Municipalities should consult legal counsel when adopting new bylaws, ordinances, and policies.

Did we miss something? Do you have regulations or policies that should be added to this website? Do you need assistance? For additions, corrections, or questions please contact Senior Environmental Planner Anne Herbst at

Strategies to Increase Climate Resilience Through Design Standards and Guidelines


Watertown updated design standards in its zoning ordinance. Changes include:

  1. A new definition for “landscaped” that includes stormwater retention and ground recharge, and encourages native and drought-tolerant plantings (2.42)
  2. Solar arrays are not included in height limitations (4.10)
  3. Environmental performance standards for buildings along major corridors and squares: “New development comes with the obligation to implement sustainable design and construction practices that incorporate technological innovation and green building practices and ecological site design. Development will strive to address the highest sustainable and ecological principles, using advanced green technologies and materials, and promoting high-performance buildings. Stormwater management practices must prevent flooding and erosion, and protect the health of the Charles River and local streams and ponds, using green infrastructure approaches where feasible. New buildings should be constructed with local, low-embodied energy materials and constructed with the highest standards for environmental sustainability.” (5.17)
  4. Encourages shared and reduced parking and use of permeable paving or other techniques for groundwater recharge from off-street parking. (6.01)
  5. Requires tree shading to reduce the heat island effect of parking lots, use of drought-tolerant species, and encourages below grade landscaped islands to capture runoff. (6.02)
  6. Assessment of rooftop photovoltaic viability is required for projects of a specified size. (9.03)

See Site Plan Review for additional requirements.