Feature Article

Resilient Design: 7 Lessons from Early Adopters

As storms reveal weaknesses in our built environment, some project teams have adopted more robust, durable principles.

HOK's design for Project Haiti, an orphanage built by the U.S. Green Building Council in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake there, uses resilient design elements—like a structural system made robust by branching elements inspired by nature, as well as rainwater catchment and onsite renewable energy.

Image: HOK

Whether it’s two five-hundred-year floods in eleven years, a 50% increase in the number of tropical storms in the North Atlantic, or severe droughts and wildfires in some regions, the context of building is changing. And with those changes, a new design parameter is emerging: resilience.

“Resilience is the capacity to adapt to changing conditions, and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance,” according to a working definition from the Resilient Design Institute (RDI). Along with this definition, RDI is developing a set of principles (see sidebar, “Principles of Resilient Design,”) that build on early thinking by RDI president and BuildingGreen founder, Alex Wilson, to guide resilient design (see “Resilient Design—Smarter Building for a Turbulent Future”).

Meanwhile, practitioners designing buildings in places on the front lines of climate change and resource uncertainty are applying these or similar principles drawn from regional lessons to design buildings that are better suited to a changing world. We asked some of these pioneering practitioners to share their lessons learned.

Published November 1, 2013