National Capital Region

Background Information

Northern Virginia is a sub-area of both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. With a geographic area of approximately 1,304 square miles, Northern Virginia is home to over two million residents, gaining almost 42,000 new residents each year. The population of Northern Virginia is 40.4% people of color—14.6% Latinx, 11.9% black, and 12.1% Asian. Minority populations represent 82% of the population growth of the region.

Northern Virginia has dense and complex networks of shared infrastructure, increasing pressures on land-use, and a rapidly growing population and built environment. The region has experienced extreme weather events that have contributed to the loss of lives and damaged homes, business, and economic activity. In early 2018, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, a regional council composed of thirteen members, developed Resilient Critical Infrastructure: A Roadmap for Northern Virginia to help regional planners better understand the changing climate to plan for local resilience and to manage risks. This roadmap focuses on building the resilience of critical infrastructure sectors in the region to projected climate stressors of heat, precipitation, and sea level rise over an 80-year planning horizon.

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission is comprised of thirteen members—Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park; and the independent towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, and Vienna.

Team Summary

The National Capital Region team includes diverse members from across the region. The team is led by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and includes representatives from the Washington, D.C. Office of Planning; Prince George’s County, Maryland; Arlington County, Virginia; and the nonprofit Resilient Virginia. In 2017, a metropolitan Washington, D.C. team attended the Institute for Sustainable Communities Innovations in Building Resilient Communities event. As a follow-up action of this event, the D.C. team recommended designing a broad regional resilience framework to create a more formalized approach to regional collaboration that would allow regional leaders to work together on shared resilience issues. As part of that effort, the National Capital Region team is addressing stormwater, sea level rise, and the urban heat island effect; exploring how resilience and equity should be considered more holistically; and finding ways the region can leverage partnerships and creative funding streams to implement resilience capacity-building projects.

Promising Practices

  • Region Forward Vision is the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s (MWCOG) vision for a sustainable, prosperous, accessible, and livable region. The Region Forward Baseline Progress Report analyzed indicator progress in target areas including affordable housing and green buildings.
  • The City of Arlington is implementing the tools and strategies listed in its Community Energy Plan Implementation Framework to help lessen the adverse impacts of climate change. Part of this effort is the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy outreach and incentive program.
  • Resilient Virginia developed a resilience checklist in collaboration with the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties.
  • The City of Washington is coordinating with MWCOG to prioritize micro-grid implementation, feasibility studies on region-wide district energy, and flood mitigation projects.
  • D.C. is pursuing EcoDistrict certification for its Downtown Business Improvement District, a 138-block area with 90 million square feet of built environment. The district set a target to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020.
  • The Northern Virginia Regional Commission developed Resilient Critical Infrastructure: A Roadmap for Northern Virginia, a roadmap that includes a list of resilience objectives and strategies for critical infrastructure.

Key Challenges

  • Wealth disparities – Northern Virginia is unique in many ways—it contains a strong and growing economy, yet affordable housing is a major concern and many communities still experience formidable challenges. Regional stormwater vulnerability and extreme heat incidences could exacerbate these wealth disparities.
  • Community engagement – The National Capital Region team is actively implementing community engagement models with an equity lens, yet they recognize they still have a lot to learn. There is also a need to better engage local communities to help define and support resilience policies and mitigation efforts. The team is focused on community partnerships to define resilience concepts that are both relevant and actionable.
  • Funding – This team is seeking funding to support their long-term commitment to advancing social equity.

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