Design for Urban Resilience

  • Feb 6, 2017

By Marianna Verlage, Sustainability Manager, Design

The topic of urban resilience has become quite popular at The Beck Group, and our designers are learning more about what it means to design buildings with resilience in mind. Last month I taught the first of many training sessions around this topic through Beck’s continuing education program, and the session was filled with thought-provoking conversations and an exciting exchange of ideas surrounding resilient design.

To start off, we laid the foundation for the topic and discussed what urban resilience really means. There are many definitions that all capture different aspects of resilience, but the one that appealed most to me was provided by The Rockefeller Foundation:

“Urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

Although no city can know exactly what challenges it will face in the future, through research and creative design we can equip our built environment to absorb, withstand and recover from shocks and stresses – whether natural or man-made.

The World Bank estimates that between 1980 and 2012, nearly $4 trillion has gone into relief and recovery efforts worldwide for natural disasters alone. We clearly have some work to do in order to equip our cities for success.

We also discussed that although there are numerous benefits to increased globalization and society becoming primarily urban, this shift increases our risk to the hazards (whether chronic or acute) that can easily cripple our cities if we are not prepared for them. Being reflective as we continue to urbanize is imperative. Prioritizing robust, flexible and redundant systems into our buildings and urban plans is no longer a luxury. We’re at the point where focusing on sustainable design is no longer enough. Resilience encompasses sustainable practices as it looks to protect our most basic needs. Eliminating negative environmental impacts is one of the many steps needed to achieve a resilient city.

What responsibilities do we have as an architecture firm to practice “responsible design?” We are honored that Dallas was chosen as one of the 100 Resilient Cities under the Rockefeller Foundation program, and we’re excited about the possibilities of helping address the varied shocks and stresses that we face as a community. From improving our city’s aging infrastructure to creating safe and strong neighborhoods, we are in a unique position to contribute to Dallas’ development and create a city that betters the lives of its residents.

Having already been asked for follow up training sessions around passive design, passive survivability and global case studies, I doubt the interest around this topic will fade anytime soon. I’m excited to see how the creative minds I work with embody resilience in their designs as we continue to do what Beck has always done – design and build the best buildings for the communities in which we live and work.