Why Resilient Design Is a Key Part of Sustainability

Why Resilient Design Is a Key Part of Sustainability

February 24, 2023
Why Resilient Design Is a Key Part of Sustainability

As the world faces significant and mounting challenges, from extreme weather events to supply chain issues, we must accept that climate change has brought a great deal of uncertainty. This uncertainty is already felt in architecture and infrastructure. Construction accounts for more than 40% of total CO2 emissions, making it clear thatgreen building is essential for improving sustainability.

But what about resilience? There's a substantial need for sustainable design — not only that but one that can hold up against current and future hazards. Green architecture practices must be incorporated into the broader framework of robust resilience strategies to be truly effective in making the built environment more durable over time.

By combining green construction processes with smart planning, decision-making, and resource management, society can create resilient designs more equipped to handle the impacts of future hazards.

What Is Resilient Design?

Resilient design is the practice of intentionally designing and constructing buildings that are stronger and more resistant to natural disasters and other threats. By taking into account climate change forecasts, resilient designs use strategies such as:

Resilient design also involves social components such as increasing community awareness about climate change-related risks and creating strong networks for collaboration between stakeholders.

Resilience vs. Sustainability

Resilience and sustainability are closely related concepts, but some distinct differences should be highlighted.

Sustainability is aimed primarily at reducing the environmental impacts of buildings and structures. It focuses on using resources more efficiently to reduce air pollution, conserve water, improve energy efficiency, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Resilience is aimed predominantly at preparing for future hazards associated with climate change. It focuses on employing strategies such as better construction practices, robust planning measures, and wiser decision-making processes to create buildings to withstand extreme weather events and other natural catastrophes.

For more context, consider this example: a sustainable building would use solar power and energy-efficient appliances to reduce emissions, while a resilient building in the same location might be designed with higher storm resistance or stronger foundations to better withstand flooding. Together, these approaches make up a comprehensive strategy for creating resilient and sustainable buildings that are more durable against natural disasters and climate change impacts.

How Resilience Promotes Sustainability

Resilient design is an integral part of the overall green building strategy. Resilient design helps the efforts of sustainable construction methods translate to people's lives. For example, improved stormwater management systems can help reduce flooding and improve water conservation efforts.

Similarly, incorporating renewable energy sources into resilient designs can help reduce emissions while at the same time providing additional power sources in case of emergency or disaster scenarios.

Designing for Resilience and Sustainability

Resilience and sustainability must go hand in hand – that means careful planning, estimating, and strategy from the earliest stages of a project. This can be through construction takeoff software, which enables architects and engineers to estimate the materials needed for a project accurately.

Resources such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) can simulate the impacts of climate change on buildings, helping designers identify potential risks or weaknesses before construction begins. Additionally, incorporating green materials in resilient designs can help reduce emissions further.

Likewise, incorporating practical elements such as:

At the building scale, this could include details like rain screen walls and windows that can withstand hurricane winds. At the community level, it could involve cultivating social structures and providing human-powered transportation options to access key services.

Durable Materials

Durable materials, such as concrete or steel, can build strong foundations that will last lifetimes. Long-lasting materials can also help reduce the carbon footprint of a building by using fewer resources over time while simultaneously protecting against natural disasters.

Likewise, designers should look into low-carbon alternatives to traditional materials. For example, planning for “green” concrete in construction is becoming increasingly popular. For instance, a new type of eco-friendly material, geopolymer, produces up to 90% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional concrete production and just as strong.

Similarly, other green building materials such as recycled plastic panels or timbercrete can provide environmentally friendly solutions. Concrete estimating software also makes it easy to accurately calculate the amount of material needed for a project and estimate costs without having to make large calculations manually.

Sourcing Locally

Where possible, efforts should be made to source locally available materials to minimize the environmental impact of transportation and reduce dependency on external sources.

In construction procurement, certain contract types like design-bid-build (DBB) or design-build (DB) are better suited for procuring locally sourced materials when available. DBB contracts involve multiple parties across different stages of construction, which can result in delays if there is no local availability. On the other hand, DB contracts require all suppliers and subcontractors to work together from start to finish under one contractor — meaning that more control over sourcing decisions can be maintained throughout the process.

Moreover, reinvesting in local materials can also help to stimulate the local economy, support economic recovery and encourage sustainable development.

Passive Survivability

Passive survivability is the ability of a building to maintain critical life-support conditions for its occupants if services such as power, heating fuel, or water are lost for an extended period. Passive survivability strategies should be tailored to the local climate: some methods that work in mild climates may not be suitable for more extreme temperatures.

A few strategies to achieve passive survivability include:

By incorporating these strategies into construction projects, buildings are adequately prepared for extreme weather conditions or prolonged periods without access to critical services.

Modular Construction

Modular construction is a modern building technique that involves pre-fabricating components off-site, allowing for quick installation on-site. This type of construction is suitable for both public and private buildings, providing both resilience and sustainability benefits.

The main advantage of modular construction is that it can reduce the time needed to build a structure. This means fewer resources like energy and materials are used, which ultimately leads to reduced costs for the client. Additionally, modular construction enables more efficient use of space by converting traditional floor plans into modular ones, making customization easier with limited resources.

Reduce Complexity

It's essential to keep construction systems simple. Complex systems are more prone to failure and can be challenging to maintain. In addition, introducing redundancies beyond what is necessary may end up being a waste of resources.

Therefore, building designs should focus on creating resilient structures with minimal complexity. This includes using fewer materials, limiting connections between parts, and taking advantage of existing local infrastructure. By reducing complexity in construction projects and ensuring resilience through passive survivability strategies, owners can create structures that will stand the test of time — both environmentally and financially.

Plan for the Future

Designing and building for the future require a comprehensive understanding of current trends, emerging technologies, and best-available models of how climate change may impact the environment. In addition, planning for worst-case scenarios means accounting for extreme weather events that can cause damage or disrupt the normal functioning of a structure.

By considering these future conditions during the design and construction phases, owners can create buildings that can withstand changing conditions while keeping up with modern standards. This will allow them to be prepared for whatever nature throws their way — now and in the years to come.

Leveraging Technology in Resilient Design

The latest technology can be helpful throughout the design, estimating, manufacturing, construction, and all phases of a project to optimize sustainability and resilience. For example, anyone on a job from contractors to cost estimators will need to accurately measure the materials needed for a project. This helps ensure that resources are used efficiently while minimizing waste and costs.

Investing in resilience means creating structures prepared to handle extreme weather events — slow-moving catastrophes or rapid-onset disasters. By leveraging the latest technology and prioritizing smart designs, owners can build for the future.

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