What’s the word of the day? It’s all about ‘resiliency’

Just for the sake of argument, let’s put aside the rhetoric about climate change—whether it’s actually happening, whether it’s a result of manmade activity—and agree that we are experiencing some pretty dramatic weather events that are having huge impacts on populations here in the U.S. and worldwide.

June 08, 2014 |
Rob Cassidy

Photo: siddman via Wikimedia Commons

Just for the sake of argument, let’s put aside the rhetoric about climate change—whether it’s actually happening, whether it’s a result of manmade activity—and agree that we are experiencing some pretty dramatic weather events that are having huge impacts on populations here in the U.S. and worldwide.

Horrendous wildfires in the West. Drought in more than 30 states. Extremes of  rainfall and flooding. Storm surges like Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and devastating hurricanes like Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Such events were once viewed as “natural” occurrences, completely out of our control. But with population growth and urban densification, the impact of these events has multiplied to the point where we have to be much more aggressive in designing both individual buildings and whole cities to be able to withstand such calamities.

All this was brought home recently when my colleagues, BD+C Editor-in-Chief David Barista and Group Director Tony Mancini, and I “blitzed” our way through 23 AEC offices in New York City in two days. It quickly became clear to us how vividly the impact of Superstorm Sandy lives in the minds of the professionals we talked to. Everywhere we went, one word kept coming up: “resiliency.” 

“It’s the biggest thing we’re dealing with,” said FXFOWLE’s Brien McDaniel. “It’s about recovery, and thinking into the future, but not on a piecemeal basis.”

Sarah Friedel, LEED GA, an Associate at Perkins+Will, said resiliency has to do with “the connectiveness of systems, how whatever you’re working on now fits into long-range complexities.” P+W Associate Principal Jason Harper, AIA, LEED AP, talked about the human cost of the closing of five hospitals in the city in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy: “Most of the deaths from the storm in New York were among the elderly,” many of whom were cut off from the medical care they so tragically needed.

David Cooper, PE, LEED AP BD+C, President/CEO of WSP’s U.S. operations, described resiliency not only in the context of climate adaptation but also for disaster preparedness—for example, by installing medical gases in hospital parking garages so that large numbers of people could be treated in the event of a major disaster.

The good news is that post-Sandy federal funds are starting to flow to the Tri-State Region to protect the most vulnerable buildings, according to Eric C.Y. Fang, AIA, AICP, LEED AP, Associate Principal with EE&K/Perkins Eastman.

This does not mean that the dismal forecasts by the recent federal National Climate Assessment and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should be ignored. Nor does it mean that planning for resiliency can be confined to coastal areas. Disaster can take many forms: ice storms that bring down power lines in the Midwest, heat waves in Texas, tornadoes and torrential rains in the South. Buildings and communities must be fortified to withstand these possibilities.

Which is why it’s encouraging to hear that 20 AEC-industry organizations, including the AIA, ASHRAE, ABC, the AGC, BOMA, the NAHB, ULI, and the USGBC, have agreed to make resiliency a key factor in the selection of materials for buildings and in their planning, design, construction, and operation. Ultimately, though, it’s up to you, the nation’s design, engineering, and construction professionals, to make our built environment resilient.

Email comments to Robert Cassidy, Editorial Director, at [email protected]

Rob Cassidy | Building Team Blog

Rob Cassidy (“ClimateGrouch”) is editorial director of Building Design+Construction. A city planner, he is the author of several books, including “Livable Cities,” and was a co-founder of the Friends of the Chicago River.

Related Blogs

Leadership or limbo: Moving to building green’s next level

3 PNC Plaza. Photo: John Marino via flickr Creative Commons

November 29, 2015 | Green | Building Team Blog

After interviewing more than 50 AEC firms for our Greenbuild Report in the November issue, I wonder if the...

Benjamin Kasdan, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, Design Director/Senior Designer with KTGY Architecture + Planning, Irvine, Calif. (Class of 2015 40 Under 40 winner)

October 26, 2015 | Building Team Blog

Are you an AEC superstar? The 2016 "40 Under 40" competition is now open for entries. Here are some helpful...

Competency-based learning: A glimpse into the future of higher education?

Photo: Xbxg32000 via Wikimedia Commons

October 16, 2015 | University Buildings | Building Team Blog

For better or worse, the higher education experience for many young Millennials and Gen Zers will not resem...

From Gehry to the High Line: What makes a project a game-changer?

El Peix sculpture in Barcelona, by Frank Gehry. Photo: Till Niermann via Wikimedia Commons

September 24, 2015 | Architects | Building Team Blog

Each year, there are a handful of projects that significantly advance the AEC industry or a particular buil...

Why AEC firms should be cultivating 'visible experts'

Photo: Cydcor via flickr creative commons

July 07, 2015 | Architects | Building Team Blog

A new study pinpoints the true dollar value of having knowledge leaders and market shapers on your team....

Tactical urbanism: Why bigger isn’t always better in urban revitalization

Each September, as part of Park(ing) Day, citizens, artists, and activists in more than 160 cities collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into micro parks, gardens, and art exhibits. Photo: my.parkingday.org

May 27, 2015 | Smart and Resilient Cities | Building Team Blog

A budding urban planning movement that is sprouting in cities across the globe proves that low-cost, small-...

Hackathons and RFCs: Why one developer killed the RFP

Image depicts design concepts from the hackathon winner, Pickard Chilton of New Haven, Conn. Photo courtesy Skanska

May 06, 2015 | Building Owner | Building Team Blog

In lieu of an RFP process, Skanska Commercial Development hosted a three-week "hackathon" to find an archit...

Chance encounters and the ‘action’ office: Do collisions spark innovation?

Google is among a handful of tech giants to unveil plans for “action” offices. Rendering courtesy Google, BIG, Thomas Heatherwick

March 29, 2015 | Office Building Design | Building Team Blog

Google, Facebook, Samsung, and Tencent have all unveiled plans for “action” offices designed to get their p...

The High Line effect: Placemaking as an economic development engine

Eight years into the transformation of an elevated section of New York Central Railroad’s West Side Line into a public park, the $273 million project is being hailed as a resounding win for the city. Photo: Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons

March 02, 2015 | Cultural Facilities | Building Team Blog

As big money and eager tourists flock to Chelsea, cities across the globe are starting to take notice. Chic...

Add new comment

Your Information
Your Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.
Overlay Init