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Ashley Eusey

Ashley Eusey

Associate | Sustainability

Sustainability in the building industry is evolving. As the market evolved and sustainability became the new standard, buildings were now lasting longer. Building professionals now are asking how to protect a building with an extended lifespan into a future 20 years down the line. Enter resiliency – a concept now applied to the built environment, but is it revolutionary?

Blast-resistant consulting to mitigate terrorist attacks on government buildings; redundancy in power for hospital life-support systems during outages; and bullet-resistant materials for police stations have been in the works for years. Only recently is this same scale promoted as the new standard we should strive to attain. From our experience working with these building types at Hoefer Wysocki, three pillars of resilient design have emerged as most successful: integrated design, flexibility and education. Focusing on these pillars early and throughout the design process will generate greater success in the battle against an unknown future.

Integrated design

Integrated design – another recent sustainability-themed buzzword – simply entails getting more brain trust at the table. The earlier these brains are gathered, the better the building will be. Building user groups, or brains, will vary by project. For example, a school user group may include students, teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, parents, and even a Chief Security Officer. Hospital stakeholders include representatives from each department since healthcare needs differ across disciplines. Sometimes even city officials, utility companies, or certain product manufacturers need to be brought into the discussion.

Once the now-integrated design team is established, the groundwork can begin. Resiliency is an investment. Although resilient design has some potential financial benefits – lower operating costs, reduced re-work, and lower insurance premiums – the upfront cost of implementing these measures needs to be considered in the initial budget. Once that budget is established, then hazards need to be identified and weighed. The RELi Action List, a comprehensive list of resilient design criteria developed by C3 Living Design Project, as well as other resiliency resources are a great way to guide the conversation, especially when the concept of resiliency is unfamiliar.

Location, climate, building type, social unrest, and community resources are just a few of the many factors that need to be addressed. This is where the diversity of ideas at the table shines. When it comes to resiliency, each design team member brings experience, knowledge and perspectives that others had not considered. Through a resiliency brainstorming process, a list of potential hazards is created, with each then weighted by importance. Each potential risk identified should address time, physical size and scale, and directly align with the organization’s strategic and business plans. For example, if a tenant only has a 10-year lease, it does not make sense to invest in anything with a payback period longer than 10 years or for a situation that may arise long after the tenant leaves. Once priorities are determined, the resiliency budget can be allocated accordingly. From there the team can make an educated decision on which strategies make sense financially as well as programmatically. This needs to be a team-based decision as opposed to a mandate or directive. Although 100 percent agreement is unlikely – each participant brings goals, expectations, and biases – initial conflict and disagreement can help uncover new evidence or possible consequences not yet considered, and ultimately lead to consensus about investments and design decision.

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