Asset Mapping for Resilience

By: Melissa Hom, Second Nature Intern, Northeastern ’17

The resilience assessment is meant to provide a baseline of current resilience activities on campus and in the community, develop initial indicators of resilience through a multi-stakeholder process, and identify current vulnerabilities related to climate change. Schools should keep a particular eye on overlaps and gaps in assets and vulnerabilities between the campus and community.

The assessment is a preliminary process to look at the current state of a campus. To help a campus identify strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, creating an asset map helps visualize and determine existing resources in a defined area, such as a college campus, surrounding community, or both. Asset mapping can be utilized as an interactive online tool or it can be a physical resource.

Many signatory schools have already developed sustainability maps. Looking at these maps as examples, we can see that asset mapping for resilience is a helpful tool that can:

  • Become an easy-to-use resource. The University of Washington developed an interactive sustainability map. They categorized their sustainability assets into seven categories, with symbols breaking these categories down into specific types of assets. Their map is a helpful tool that students, faculty, and staff can utilize to locate assets to ensure sustainable practices.
  • Integrate resilience into various areas of the school. The University of Colorado Boulder’s sustainability map is formatted so that each asset has a pop-out window. The windows have links to different campus pages, such as Housing & Dining and Bus Information. Creating an asset map in this way helps to create a bridge between sustainability practices and existing departments on the campus.
  • Tell a story. Western Michigan University has a PDF available online, emphasizing how they have implemented sustainable practices into their campus through a “Tour Map”. The document includes a map and descriptive information showing how the university has implemented sustainable practices at specific buildings and areas on campus, in addition to more general practices like water bottle filling stations and natural areas.
  • Clearly identify strengths and weaknesses. University of Arizona’s sustainability map highlights assets throughout the campus that overlap with many of their focus areas, such as transportation, food, and energy. Because the map spatially organizes data, it becomes clear where many assets are housed on campus, and which areas of campus are not in close proximity to resources. The university could use this information to decide where to implement future sustainability resources.  
  • Create relationships between the campus and surrounding neighborhood. Drew University’s Sustainability Map focuses on resources available on their Madison, NJ campus. Many transportation-related resources extend beyond the limits of the campus boundaries and include train stations and nearby trail entrances.

To take the first steps toward asset mapping, it is important to do preliminary planning. Depending on resource availability, skill level, and access to data, an asset map can be a simple poster with stickers and pushpins or a highly interactive web tool, like many of the examples above. Mapping resources do not need to be complicated or technologically savvy to be effective. The resource can become a helpful tool by taking into account the unique needs, resources, and abilities at an institution by considering the following:

  • Audience: who will be using the asset map resource? (students, faculty, staff, the surrounding community)
  • Boundaries: what physical area will the map display? (campus, campus and the surrounding community, an entire city)
  • Purpose: what is the purpose of this map resource and what will it be used for
  • Resources: what resources are available on campus that can help with map creation (geographic information systems department, existing maps, campus sustainability groups, etc)
  • Data Availability: what data is already available and how much data will need to be collected

For more guidance on how to get started, check out Second Nature’s asset mapping for resilience guidance document. Be sure to revisit the blog in Spring 2018 for a post from CRUX Fellow Thea Kindschuh on Portland State University’s mapping efforts.