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Addressing Climate Change through Resilient Development

A CEDAS Academy Webinar

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM




Connecticut’s coastal and inland communities are experiencing climate change impacts on infrastructure, real estate values, human health, and the environment. As communities across the state begin planning for these anticipated changes, economic developers and land use planners must have a better understanding of ways to address them and guide developers to responsible and sustainable construction projects.

This webinar will explore the effects of climate change on sea level rise projections for Connecticut as well as the impact of increased flooding on critical infrastructure, transportation, and housing. Our speakers will also describe resilient design strategies for new development and provide examples from their work on the ground in communities throughout the northeast.

Attend this webinar to learn:

  • The anticipated impact of climate change on infrastructure, transportation, and housing.

  • Best practices in designing new development for climate resiliency.

  • Real life examples of communities throughout the northeast that are successfully implementing resilient development projects.





This event is free and offered as a program of the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) and the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA). Approved for CM Credits through the American Planning Association.



About Our Speakers

Yaprak Onat

Yaprak Onat is the Assistant Director of Research for the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA). She coordinates the planning, development, design, implementation, and evaluation of flood risk mitigation projects for coastal resilience and engages in workshops and training to improve science communication for capacity-building activities.

Before joining CIRCA, Yaprak worked as a post-doctoral researcher, specializing in modeling the extreme swell environment of the Hawaiian Islands. She also developed the coastal vulnerability map and modeled the extratropical storm-generated swell effects and their impact on the coastal exposure of the Hawaiian Islands. Yaprak worked on various risk assessment and engineering projects, with topics including tsunami inundation, sea level rise, and wave exposure assessment. Her work led her to collaborate with multi-disciplinary groups, including scientists, municipality representatives, and members of the indigenous and coastal community. She has experience doing fieldwork, focusing mostly on in-situ deployments and assisting in managing experimental laboratory conditions.

Her goal is to increase the adaptive capacity of coastal regions via hazard management strategies to develop the most optimal approaches for the sustainability of the coastal communities. Her outreach interests focus on improving the learning environment and teaching techniques for STEM students.

Yaprak holds a Ph.D. in Ocean and Resources Engineering from the University of Hawai‛i at Manoa and M.S. from Ocean and Resources Engineering from the University of Hawai‛i at Manoa and Civil Engineering from Middle East Technical University.


Alexander Felson

Alex Felson joins CIRCA as the new Deputy Executive Director and Director of Resilience Design. He will play a key role in developing the state’s resiliency planning. This includes working on the Connecticut Connections Coastal Resilience Plan – a US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) National Disaster Resilience (NDR) grant. This four year science-based risk assessment and broad consultation planning initiative will produce a resilience framework for Connecticut. Dr. Felson will serve as Associate Research Scientist in UConn’s Department of Marine Sciences.

Dr. Felson is a senior certified ecologist and a registered landscape architect who founded the Urban Ecology and Design Lab and runs Ecopolitan Design. Prior to joining CIRCA, he held the position of associate Professor at Yale University jointly between the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Architecture. Felson works nationally on resilience projects including in Miami and California, and continues to work on coastal resilience planning extensively for the State of Connecticut. He built bioretention gardens in Bridgeport through a community process, worked on the first resiliency plan for the State in Guilford, served as a core team member on Rebuild by Design, and recently completed the Regional Resilience Framework Plan with the Nature Conservancy. He currently serves on the SAFR Council (State Agencies Fostering Resilience) and he is collaborating on a municipal economic planning tool to evaluate and prioritize alternative scenarios for coastal adaptation. Alex holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University an MLA from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and an MS in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  He can be reached at



Robert Freudenberg

Robert Freudenberg is vice president of RPA's energy and environmental programs, leading the organization’s initiatives in areas including climate mitigation and adaptation, open space conservation and park development, and water resource management. He oversees a comprehensive program of projects and policies to improve public health, quality of life, sustainable development and climate resilience in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan area. Rob works closely with other RPA staff to integrate these objectives with RPA's economic, transportation, land use, design and community development initiatives.

Rob has been with RPA since 2006 and most recently served as New Jersey director, where he managed the state program with a focus on sustainability planning and policy. He led projects including developing an arts and revitalization plan for Paterson and a neighborhood revitalization plan for East Camden; producing an economic and land use study for a future bus rapid transit corridor in Union County; advancing regenerative design efforts in the New Jersey Highlands; and facilitating land use and urban design recommendations and leading local demonstration projects for the 13-county Together North Jersey effort.

Prior to joining RPA, Rob served as a coastal management fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he focused on policies for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Rob holds a master’s of public administration in environmental science and policy from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor’s in environmental biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.


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