Is Resilience the New Sustainable Design?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, nature’s destructive power is on full display. As thousands grapple with power loss, property loss, and the trials and tribulations that come with both, writer Blaine Brownell’s recent report for Eco-Structure magazine on the national Resilient Buildings Workshop struck a cord. Being on day 11 of no power myself, the idea that sustainable design should incorporate resiliency is intriguing. What can we do – and what should we be doing – to make buildings more resilient? Is our current mindset about sustainable design enough?

Resiliency has recently become the new “it” term in the building and infrastructure fields with Thomas Fisher’s new book Designing to Avoid Disaster (Routledge, 2012) and Andrew Zolli and Anne-Marie Healy’s new work Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back (Free Press, 2012). If through sustainable design we create buildings that work more with the natural environment, some argue our future built environment – and the infrastructure that supports it – could better withstand Mother Nature’s wrath. Longer lasting buildings that incur less damage could be sustainable solutions that would benefit us all.