Resilient Design: Is Resilience the New Sustainability?

Ever since Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc on the East Coast, ‘resilient design’ has been a hot topic of conversation — and not just amongst architects and designers, but politicians, engineers and city planners as well. In November 2012, ‘Resilient Design’ was a trending search term in Google, moving from near obscurity in the months before the devastating super storm to a popular catchphrase post-Sandy. Natural disasters like this, and more recently the typhoon that hit the Philippines in early November, serve to remind those of us in the green design community that while building with pure “save-the-earth” ecological motivation is certainly important, low-VOC-paints and LEED points don’t matter much if a building becomes uninhabitable due to flooding, earthquake, power outages or some other natural or manmade disaster. That’s where resilient design comes into play. According to the Resilient Design Institute, resilient design is defined as “the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to vulnerabilities to disaster and disruption of normal life”.