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  • Fernando Ortiz

Resilient Design

Hurricane Sandy, Harvey and Maria have all taught us valuable lessons within the loss and devastation that they cause and it is that we need to design our spaces, structures and communities to be resilient.


Resiliency is defined as the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of a stress or disturbance. Resiliency is both the response and the action that such disturbances can cause such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, earthquakes, terrorism and other natural and social disruptions.


Leading the movement that is resilient design is perhaps the Resilient Design Institute (RDI) who's founder Alex Wilson I had the honor of studying with in his course "Resilient Design" at the Boston Architectural College. RDI defined resilient design as " the intentional design of buildings,landscapes, communities and regions in order to respond to natural and man-made disasters and disturbances such as rising sea levels and earthquakes". RDI went further in establishing recognized principals of resilient design and resilient design strategies.


Principals of Resilient Design:

1. transcends scale

2. provide basic human needs

3. diverse + redundant systems

4. Passive, flexible and simple

5. durable

6. locally available, renewable or reclaimed resources

7. biomimicry

8. social equity

9. anticipates interruptions

10. is not Absolute - will not solve everything.


These guiding principals of resilient design can be implemented in the built environment through strategies such modeling design solutions on future climatic changes (like designing with floodplains and sea level rise in mind), relying on passive heating and cooling, providing both manual and automatic systems, managing rainwater, use of green infrastructure and incorporating renewable energy sources.


Hurricane Sandy in NYC could have been a lot worse and caused a lot of damage in coastal communities like the Rockaways but it helped create awareness of our ever changing natural environment and that we need to prepare ourselves and adapt better to such disturbances. Resilient design gives us part of the solution. It allows us to design with such disturbances in mind and to make our built environments more self-sufficient and tolerant to such situations or circumstances.

The beauty of design is that it can by synergistic- a space or building can incorporate strategies or goals that make it sustainable, biophilic and resilient. A good example is vegetated roofs- it incorporates vegetation and natural systems into the space (biophilic), it can help reduce heating/cooling loads and reduce urban heat island effect (sustainable) and it can serve as a

source of food (resilient).


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