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Building for resilience - All about RELi

Sustainable design strategies create more resilient buildings. However, only truly focused purposeful resilient design strategies will create the adaptation needed.

March 07, 2019 |
Abundance: The Paladino Blog

January temperatures topped out at 35 degrees Celsius in Australia and bottomed out at -51 degrees Celsius in North Dakota.

These radical temperatures capture headlines, and they are capturing the attention of real estate developers who have a role to play in community resilience to climate extremes.

The built environment’s contribution to carbon emissions is well documented, and sustainability efforts back-checked by LEED, Living Building Challenge, and others are one way to solve the climate change problem.


RELiNorth Dakota January 2019.


At the same time resilient building strategies are the best way to respond to the changing climate of today and tomorrow. Buildings must be designed to protect occupants, offer shelter during emergencies, and importantly to survive the day-to-day pressures of increased heat, cold, drought, and rainfall.

Sustainable design strategies create more resilient buildings. However, only truly focused purposeful resilient design strategies will create the adaptation needed.

The next rational step for developers and owners is to certify their projects as resilient. The USGBC and GBCI have adopted the RELi Rating system (RELi), which takes a holistic approach to resilient design and overlaps with other rating systems – most notably LEED.




RELi includes more than 50 requirements and credits across several categories:


  • Panoramic Design
  • Hazard Preparedness
  • Hazard Adaptation
  • Community Vitality, Productivity/Health + Diversity
  • Energy/ + Food
  • Materials + Artifacts
  • Applied Creativity

Design strategies are an important part of achieving high-performing resilient design outcomes. In response, RELi combines a comprehensive and expandable action list with an integrative process called the Living Design Approach. This universal method is embodied in the RELi Panoramic Approach category as a series of requisites and credits.

RELi combines hazard-specific design criteria like tornado preparedness with general resilience strategies such as energy efficiency and stormwater management. The standard helps identify and reduce the risk of damage in the event of a natural disaster, economic disruption, resource depletion, or other crisis.

RELi is like LEED in format with certification by GBCI based on a point system. The 15 requirements within RELi are mandatory and do not carry a point value. Optional credits have point values, allowing projects to seek credits and certification levels that fit their needs.

RELi is designed in a menu format with basic requirements that can range from better than standard to highly aspirational. The standard relies on a rating system calculator similar to the LEED checklist, with credits treated like menu items. And like LEED, there are rating levels associated with credits achieved.

Resilient design pursues buildings and communities that are shock resistant, healthy, adaptable, and regenerative through a combination of diversity, foresight, and the capacity for self-organization and learning.

Adoption of resilience-focused certifications is a relatively new concept, and developers are balancing the call to action for resilient real estate with their business values and processes. Because it’s in the early days for RELi, there is also an opportunity for developers to inform and shape future iterations of the rating system. This is the ideal time to contribute to the conversation and bring a developer’s perspective to the right-sized approach to resilient back-checks through certification.

Abundance: The Paladino Blog | Paladino and Company

Paladino and Company is a sustainability consulting firm that works with organizations seeking to make a difference through their buildings and people. Abundance, written by our team of architects, engineers, building scientists, commissioning agents and business analysts, reflects our rigorous business and building technical analysis centered on the concept of abundance as a driving force for change.  Our consultants offer insights, expertise and vision on sustainability and how to realize its business value. For more, visit http://www.paladinoandco.com/blog/.

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