What Is Resilience in Buildings?

  August 19, 2014

Today's tip is about resilience in buildings.

Resilience as it relates to buildings is far beyond just the latest industry buzzword. It's a fundamental imperative for any new or existing building, and a non-negotiable consideration for any building to be classified as high-performance.

The two-year old Resilient Design Institute defines resilience as "the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance. It is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption of some sort." It's an idea has become more en vogue the last several years as storms and other natural disasters have grown more severe, many suspect as a result of climate change.

Resilience is just as important a consideration for existing buildings as it is when designing new. New data from the Energy Information Administration show that, as of 2012, there are about 5.6 million commercial existing buildings in the U.S. That means there is a lot of work to be done!

In July 2013, three organizations banded together to create a fascinating, comprehensive report titled "Building Resilience in Boston: 'Best Practices' for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience for Existing Buildings." Boston was selected because it includes a very high percentage of older buildings — indeed, the highest percentage of residential buildings built before World War II of any major city, according to the report. The report lays out in detail how buildings in Boston — both commercial and residential — can retrofit to be better prepared for several types of potential disasters. But of course, the lessons apply anywhere.

Best practices include doing a threat assessment for your individual building, building or designating shelter areas in every building, and using cool roofs, among dozens of others. The report is very well worth a read.


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