Feature Article

The Four Core Issues to Tackle for Resilient Design (And the Programs That Can Help)

As new rating systems from LEED to REDi lay out key design steps for resilient design, it’s still up to project teams to bring critical perspective.

March 7, 2016

6 New Street, expected to be completed in 2016, has already obtained an insurance quote ten times lower than that of a comparable conventional building because of the site-specific resilience features it incorporates.

Image: Stantec
Hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and other disasters have drawn attention to resilient design mostly by showing us what not to do in the built environment. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and today we’re on the cusp of having metrics and rating systems that clearly define what we should do—how to design buildings that can withstand natural disasters and even remain functional during and after disruptions.

These new frameworks (the major ones are REDi, RELi, FORTIFIED, and pilot credits in LEED, all discussed in detail below) are for the first time enabling practitioners to set quantifiable goals for resilience. A pilot project for the REDi rating system currently in design in San Francisco, 181 Fremont, will be capable of being reoccupied immediately after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake and will sustain financial losses under 2.5% of project’s total value, according to its engineers. Other rating systems aim to maintain livable temperatures without mechanical systems for more than a week or to expand occupancy without losing off-grid capabilities.

As the targets become more specific, however, it can be difficult to keep the big picture in sight. Because these various frameworks are so new (most have yet to be tested by project teams) and differ so significantly in scope and focus, it is even more important to develop the kind of critical thinking that keeps teams motivated by the underlying values of resilient design. The experts that BuildingGreen interviewed, many of them the creators of these new programs, highlighted four essential core issues that teams should consider, no matter which framework is being used as a tool:

  1. addressing the most likely hazards
  2. factoring in climate change
  3. fostering social cohesion
  4. problem-solving across scales

Developing the skills to address these core issues will help professionals stay ahead of the curve and incorporate resilience on all projects, even as the various frameworks become more defined.