Could Resilience Become the New Green?
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The latest EBN feature article is new available. Click on image to enlarge. A new feature article in Environmental Building News examines how a focus on resilient design could advance green building more quickly than our current focus on sustainab... I thought about that a lot in the hot, dry sunlight of Arizona and Texas as I snaked my way across 1,900 miles of gorgeous terrain. Resilience as a motivation for change I came to the realization that we need motivation beyond simply "doing the right thing" or staving off climate change--a distant and overwhelming-sounding task. What if people did all this stuff (building carbon-neutral homes and weaning themselves from automobile dependence, for example) not because it was good for the planet, but because of self-interest? For you and me, that probably isn't necessary. Anyone reading Environmental Building News or perusing BuildingGreen resources regularly is probably already convinced that we need to make these sorts of changes for reasons of altruism. But for lots of other people, that isn't the case. And even people committed to the need for addressing climate change are sometimes overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of the challenge and what can seem like insignificant contributions that they are making. Drought in West Texas--on my bike trip through the Southwest last year. Photo: Alex Wilson. Click on image to enlarge. The idea with resilient design is to turn sustainable design practices into necessity in an age of advancing climate change. We need to build ultra-low-energy homes and create bicycle-friendly communities to keep our families safe as a warming climate makes storms more frequent, causes more flooding, knocks out power more frequently, and produces extensive regional droughts. These are some of the arguments I make in our latest EBN feature article, " Resilient Design: Smarter Building for a Turbulent Future " (requires log-in). The article addresses five general observations about resilience and why we need it, then presents 59 specific strategies in a detailed Checklist of Actions . By implementing these actions, we can create homes and other buildings that will maintain livable conditions in the event of extended power outages, loss of heating fuel, or shortages of water. We can transition to communities that have strong, locally based economies and rely on locally produced food. We can reduce our dependence on cars so that if political turmoil in the Mideast doubles or triples the price of gasoline, we won't be as affected. Record wildfires plagued West Texas during last year's drought. Here's the Chihuahuan Desert Museum entrance near Fort Davis. Photo: Alex Wilson. Click on image to enlarge. These are practical, common-sense solutions that can drive the green building movement, I believe, more rapidly than is possible when we make change only because it's the right thing to do. In fact, due to the life-safety benefits, some of these measures could actually be incorporated into building codes. We require seismic codes in areas prone to earthquakes. Why not implement building codes that will ensure that new houses incorporate enough insulation, passive solar gain, and natural cooling strategies that they will never put their occupants at serious risk should extended interruptions occur in our power or heating fuel supplies? I look forward to your input. Is this a reasonable argument? We instituted seismic codes after the San Francisco Earthquake and fire codes following the Great Chicago Fire. Is it time for building codes to mandate superinsulation and passive solar design as safety measures, just as we did in response to those other catastrophes? Alex Wilson is the founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and the executive editor of Environmental Building News . To keep up with his articles and musings you can follow him on Twitter .