Date of Award

Spring 2017


M.S. in Environmental Policy


Professor Monique Segarra

Second Reader

Professor Robyn Smyth

External Reader

Elizabeth Zemaitis Climate and Strategy Specialist NYS Department of Environmental Conservation


In response to the growing risk to communities from climate change impacts, Professor Cerra at the Cornell University School of Landscape Architecture developed the Climate Adaptive Design (CAD) program. CAD is being implemented as a partnership between the Hudson River Estuary Program (Estuary Program) and Cornell that utilizes participatory design and visualization to engage communities about planning for future climate impacts. The goal of CAD is to build climate resilience, galvanize community participation and education, and build links to external sources of support including local institutions of higher education. This thesis outlines background for the development of the program and reviews the literature with a focus on community resilience and adaptive, participatory planning and design. Based on this review, I developed a survey and metric for evaluating the resilience of communities participating in CAD or similar programs. Next, I describe case studies of communities that have already participated in the CAD program. Finally, I make policy recommendations based on these cases for further work by the Estuary Program through CAD or similar partnerships with higher educational institutions. By engaging municipalities in collaborative design, CAD aims to shift necessary conversations about climate adaptation to be a resilience-building and empowering process, and this thesis seeks to strengthen those efforts.

Access Control

Open Access