October 2012

Volume 21, Number 10

Get the PDF

By downloading this digital content, you agree to BuildingGreen’s terms and conditions of use.

Introducing the Resilient Design Institute

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend


Alex Wilson

By Alex Wilson

For the past seven years—ever since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast—I have devoted considerable time to the related ideas of resilience and passive survivability. I have increasingly come to believe that resilience can become a leading driver of sustainability, and I’m thrilled that BuildingGreen has helped launch the nonprofit Resilient Design Institute to advance these ideas.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption. By emphasizing the life-safety benefits of creating homes and communities that can maintain safe, livable conditions during extended power outages or interruptions in heating fuels or gasoline shortages, we may be more successful at convincing mainstream designers, builders, consumers—and even code writers—to embrace the sort of energy-efficient design and land-use planning strategies that are at the heart of green building.

Initially, I referred to this issue as passive survivability, which I first wrote about in a December 2005 editorial. But I have more recently concluded that resilience and resilient design are far better, more positive terms to use in conveying these ideas (see the March 2012 EBN feature article, “Resilient Design: Smarter Building for a Turbulent Future”). Resilient design goes beyond buildings and planning to address agriculture and local food systems, ecological restoration, and even economic systems.

The Resilient Design Institute (RDI) is a solutions-based organization that will offer practical guidance for making our buildings, communities, and systems more resilient in the face of global climate change, with its more intense storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires. We will produce fact sheets, handbooks, videos, and other educational resources on resilient design. We will lead in-depth roundtable discussions and retreats on such issues as integrating resilience into building codes and redefining emergency preparedness. And we hope to develop methodologies for assessing the resilience of municipalities.

While RDI has its origins in BuildingGreen, it will delve into issues that aren’t directly building-related, and as a nonprofit it can benefit from donations, foundation grants, and sponsorships. (You’ll find a “donate” button on the website.) I am particularly interested in reaching out to the insurance industry, which should be all over the issue of resilience. If you work in or have connections to the insurance industry, let me know!

Please visit www.ResilientDesign.org and pass along any feedback you might have, along with suggestions on direction, fundraising, case studies of resilient systems, and so forth. Send those suggestions to alex@resilientdesign.org.

While I look forward to continuing my role as executive editor of Environmental Building News and GreenSpec, and leading various new projects at the company, I’ll also be devoting a portion of my time to RDI. The two organizations will retain a close working relationship that should be mutually beneficial—and should help speed the transition to a more sustainable future.

Comments (2)

1 Great news posted by Mary Ann Lazarus on 10/28/2012 at 07:50 pm

Alex: I just saw this post and am so glad that you are moving forward with this approach to building a strong organization around resiliency. Congratulations. I look forward to learning more and participating in whatever way I can. In the meantime, good luck with the latest storm headed your way. Crazy times!

2 Trying to fly out of Hartford posted by Alex Wilson on 10/29/2012 at 05:33 am

The irony is not lost on me as I'm sitting at the Hartford airport hoping that the last flight out of Hartford today will actually make it out--so that I can give the keynote presentation at the Sustainable Communities Workshop in Sarasota, Florida tomorrow morning. Except for this gate, the airport is largely deserted.

Post new comment

Welcome !
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary] ... [/no-glossary]. Additionally, these HTML elements will not be scanned: a, abbr, acronym, code, pre.

More information about formatting options

October 2, 2012