Checklist: Resilient Design: A Checklist of Actions

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Ensure a home is safe in a storm

Avoid building in flood-prone areas: Always avoid building in 100-year flood zones, and try to avoid building in 500-year flood zones.

Design to stringent hurricane codes: Design to the Miami-Dade County Hurricane Code or comparable standards for resistance to wind and uplift.

Include a safe room: Include a safe room built to FEMA standards in the house or garage.

Build to resist or survive rain and flooding

Provide adequate overhang: Provide ample roof overhangs (24" minimum recommended) to keep rain away from walls.

Provide rainscreen: A rainscreen should be provided in the wall in all climates; this could be a full rainscreen created by strapping under siding, or a rainscreen housewrap.

Minimize the collection or amplification of stormwater: Provide for onsite infiltration of stormwater whenever possible; avoid curbs, relying instead on vegetated swales and infiltration basins.

Provide ample stormwater conveyance: When storm sewers and culverts are required, ensure that the diameter is suitable for the increasing stormwater flows
expected with climate change.

In coastal and flood-prone areas, elevate living space: Common practice in the Gulf Coast and other low-lying areas is to situate living space on the second floor, supported by piers; the lower-floor space is designed to get wet.

Consider breakaway lower-floor components: In areas where rising creeks, rivers, or coastal storm surges could inundate a foundation, provide breakaway components so that flowing water will not knock the building down.

Elevate electrical and mechanical equipment: Even where rising water is not a risk, basement flooding may occur from intense storms or a failing washing machine; always elevate mechanical and electrical equipment in basements.

Specify materials that can get wet and dry out: Use materials that can get wet and then be dried out without permanent damage, such as non-paper-faced drywall.

Build superinsulated envelopes

In cold climates, follow the 10-20-40-60 rule: In Climate Zones 5–7, provide a minimum R-10 under slabs, R-20 in foundation walls, R-40 in above-grade walls, and R-60 in attics or roofs. (Climate zones from DOE and the International Energy Conservation Code.)

In hot climates, follow the 5-10-20-60 rule: In Climates Zones 1–2, provide R-5 under slabs and on below-grade foundation walls; R-10 for above-grade foundation walls; R-20 for above-grade walls; and R-60 in attics or roofs. (For Climate Zones 3-4, choose intermediate levels of insulaton.)

In cold climates, specify R-5 windows; lower in moderate climates: In Climate Zones 5–7, windows should have unit R-values (averaging edges as well as center-of-glass as per NFRC standards) of 5.0 or higher. In milder climates, unit R-values of at least 3.0 are acceptable (see guidelines below on solar gain and heat rejection).

Build airtight homes: Aim for 1.5 air changes per hour at 50 pascals or 0.15 cfm per square foot of building shell at 50 pascals in Climate Zones 5–7, as measured with a blower door. In milder climates, 2 ACH (0.2 cfm/sf of shell) at 50 pascals is adequate.

Incorporate passive solar design in heating climates

Orient building to optimize wintertime solar gain: Orient homes and other skin-dominated buildings on an east-west axis so that the glazing area is greater on the south (for direct-gain passive solar heating) than on the east or west.

Tune glazings by orientation: Use window glazings with high solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) on the south orientation to maximize solar gain, even if the R-value of that glazing is lower than on other orientations.

Use modeling tools to optimize passive solar design: Use an energy design software package that does a good job at modeling passive solar design (e.g., Energy-10, Energy Plus, PHPP, REM-Design).

Provide thermal mass: Include adequate thermal mass within the thermal envelope to store solar heat and prevent overheating (slab or tile floor, brick wall facings, plaster walls, etc.); darker surfaces on thermal mass will improve solar absorption.

Minimize cooling loads in cooling climates

Orient buildings wisely: Orient homes and other skin-dominated buildings on an east-west axis to minimize exposure to low-angle sun that’s hard to shade against.

Tune glazings by orientation: Use window glazings with low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) but high visible light transmittance on east and west
orientations to limit solar gain.

Block unwanted solar gain: Use such strategies as porches, fixed overhangs, awnings, exterior roller shades, exterior plantings, and exterior roller blinds on the south, east, and west to limit unwanted solar gain.

Specify reflective, high-emissivity roofing: For steep-slope roofs, specify roofing with a solar reflectance index (SRI) of at least 29, and for low-slope roofing at least 78—certified by the Cool Roof Rating Council ( These roofs are also more durable.

Consider a radiant barrier for unheated attics: Radiant-barrier roof sheathing or a suspended radiant barrier can reduce air temperatures in an unheated attic, reducing heat transfer into the conditioned space below.

Provide natural cooling

Provide operable windows: Install operable windows, even in commercial buildings (even if windows are to be kept closed during normal operation).

Channel breezes through the building: Design the building geometry to channel cooling breezes through the building; allow for convenient nighttime flushing.

Provide training on building ventilation: Provide guidance to building occupants on effective ventilation strategies, such as closing the building up during the day
and opening it at night for “night flushing.” Even if humidity concerns preclude natural ventilation during normal building operation, during times of emergency that higher humidity may be acceptable.

Maximize daylighting

Install clerestories, skylights, or windows high on walls: Use fenestration high on walls or roofs to bring daylight deep into rooms (but use care with skylights, especially, not to cause overheating).

Consider tubular skylights: Particularly for corridors and interior rooms, install tubular skylights to bring daylight through attics or upper-floor spaces (specify models that minimize heat loss).

Specify high-visible-transmittance glazing: To maximize the transmission of daylight, specify glazings with high visible light transmittance (VT or Tvis).

Reflect light deeper into rooms: Use lightshelves or specially designed reflective-louvered blinds to reflect light deep into rooms (more appropriate in
commercial buildings).

Paint interior ceilings and walls light colors: To improve internal distribution of daylight, use light-colored paints on ceilings and walls.

Provide backup renewable energy systems

Install wood stoves for backup heat: In rural areas without significant air pollution problems, install clean-burning wood stoves for backup heat.

Consider pellet stoves for backup heat: Particularly in high-pollution areas where wood stoves are not desirable, consider pellet stoves that have DC fans with kits
or operation using battery power.

Install solar water heating: Provide solar water heating using a system that will operate without AC electricity (passive thermosiphon or integral-collector-storage system, or an active system with integral PV module for power).

Provide onsite renewables: A high level of resilience can be provided with a photovoltaic (PV) system that will operate when the utility grid is down (most net-metered, grid-connected systems will not work during a power outage); a battery bank will be needed for nighttime use, but a few inverters can provide daytime use of electricity during power outages.

Consider a site-charged electric vehicle: Oversize a PV system for the home and use excess power for charging an electric or plug-in-hybrid car.

Plan for water shortages

Maximize water conservation: Install high-efficiency plumbing fixtures: 1.28 gallon-per-flush toilets; 1.5 gallon-per-minute showerheads; 0.5 gallon-per-
minute bathroom faucets. Using water efficiently is critically important if stored water is to be relied on in an emergency.

Consider composting toilets and waterless urinals :For even greater water savings in the right applications, install composting toilets and waterless urinals; these can be used during times with no water.

Avoid lawns: Landscape with plants adapted to the local climate that can survive droughts.

Develop a gravity-flow or hand-pump water source: In rural areas, seek a traditional spring located above the building to provide for gravity-flow water delivery, or add a hand pump to an onsite well.

Store water onsite: Provide an onsite cistern or other long-term water storage; keep containers sealed and out of direct sun.

Provide rainwater harvesting: Install a rainwater harvesting system with storage; these can range from simple rain barrels to sophisticated systems with large cisterns and full water treatment; provide for gravity distribution if possible.

Address fire resistance and durability

Build for fire safety: Follow FEMA or other guidelines for safe construction practices in areas prone to wildfires.

Use only fire-resistant decking: Particularly in areas prone to wildfires or drought, use decking that resists combustion, such as sodium-silicate-treated wood, or install non-combustible stone or brick patios.

Install non-combustible cladding and fire-resistant construction details: Use non-combustible cladding in areas prone to wildfire or drought; design soffits and vents to prevent wind-borne ember entry; specify noncombustible metal or Class A fire-resistive roofing.

Plan for insect ranges to expand: Incorporate rigorous measures to control termites and other wood-boring insects whose ranges will expand. For example,
use below-grade insulation that is impervious to insects, such as cellular glass, and consider borate-treated wood framing.

Prevent ice dams: Follow proper building science guidance on detailing to prevent ice dams on roofs (see

Consider resilience at the community scale

Create pedestrian-friendly communities: Make getting around without cars more feasible through traffic-calming measures and other features to improve walkability.

Provide bike lanes and paths: Making communities accessible to bicycle travel is one of the best ways to reduce dependence on cars.

Provide preferential parking for bikes and electric cars: Make car parking less convenient (and more expensive) and make bicycle and electric vehicle parking more convenient.

Encourage mixed-use, higher-density development: Mixed-use, high-density communities are inherently more walkable and less dependent on cars, and public transit is much more viable in these places.

Look to schools as resilient gathering places: Schools and other public spaces are typically designated as emergency shelters during extended power outages or other emergencies; these buildings should embody a wide range of resilience features.

Encourage smaller, locally owned businesses: Keeping more money circulating within a community may make more money available for emergency response, infrastructure improvements, and other aspects of resilience.

Consider “islandable” electric utility systems: Smaller municipal or private microgrids may be able to be isolated from the regional power grid during widespread outages.

Support local food production

Encourage home and community gardens: With back yards and vacant lots in cities, families can grow a significant percentage of their own food.

Protect open, arable land :Work through planning commissions and zoning bodies to protect open, arable land for long-term agricultural potential.

Encourage CSAs and other forms of agricultural business: Community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations connect farmers and their markets directly.

Remove impediments to farming: Review zoning bylaws and regulations that may restrict farming operations, such as backyard chickens, and remove unneeded impediments.

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