What do the terms “resiliency” or “resilience” mean to us as architects? Of course, we now all know it refers to our preparedness to survive or bounce back from some type of a major weather event that occurs once a year to a few times a year. After Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, resilience became a buzzword in project meetings. Climate change experts say that these types of disaster-level storms are happening more frequently as a consequence of population growth, which has increased greenhouse gases. Higher levels of greenhouse gases have led to warmer ocean temperatures, ultimately causing storms that damage and destroy buildings and send water into places we don’t want it to go. These discussions are not only limited to weather-related events, but are also used to discuss our ability to withstand manmade terror events.
The International Code Council believes that “resilience starts with strong, regularly updated, and properly implemented building codes.” The US Army Corps of Engineers has information on its website from the recent Conference on Resilient Building Codes, held in May 2016, stating that current building codes do not include “resilient-specific” elements. The American Society for Testing Materials includes an article in the September/October issue of StandardizationNews titled “What is Resiliency?” pointing out that the design community needs to agree on a definition of resiliency or resilience. The Construction Specification Institute has also chimed in with the recent article “How Paris COP21 Drives Low-carbon Building Energy Efficiency.” The article is primarily focused on energy efficiency, but it does touch on how important resilience is to building performance during a weather-related disaster.
What does all of this mean? It means that our building codes need to be updated. As a design and construction community, we need to move forward together, not just in energy efficiency but also in building resiliency. Updating building codes and standards are a great way to ensure that resiliency requirements are integrated into our structures. Another way is to design using passive techniques and durable materials, requirements that I hope will be written into our building codes in the future.