Resilient Buildings for Resilient Cities

Jason Hartke blog

The Resilient Buildings and Construction Forum, here at ICLEI’s 5th Annual Resilient Cities Conference in Bonn, is motivated by a simple premise:

We can’t have the sustainable future that we all want unless we build that future on the foundation of resilient cities.  And we can’t achieve more resilient cities unless we design, construct and operate resilient buildings.

If we are to protect our cities and make them stronger in the face of a changing climate, then there is no more critical sector than our buildings.  These are the places where we live, where we work, where we learn, and, as it turns out, where we spend 90% of our time.  They are the hubs of our economic activity and represent assets of tremendous financial worth not to mention historic significance and shelter, a basic necessity of life.

In the resiliency context, buildings are more than just places, they are part of the vanguard for safeguarding our neighborhoods and cities.  And because of the spectacular uptake of green building in urban centers around the world, we have a unique opportunity to hit the ground running in our effort to make the built environment more resilient.

As Craig Fugate has said, “Being green in one part of being resilient.” Fugate, the administrator of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is acknowledging that green building best practices — like energy efficiency, water conservation, renewable energy applications, green roofs, and smart meters — are also key strategies in the fight against power outages, rising sea levels, heat island effect, extreme weather and other escalating climate impacts.  Leveraging this deep synergy between mitigation and adaptation strategies in our urban building stock is paramount to a more fortified future.

Over the next few days, the Resilient Buildings Forum will feature expert speakers and stakeholders from around the world and from across many fields who are not only sharing great insights into the very essence of what constitutes a resilient building, but are also exploring several key questions that will help us overcome barriers and create enablers that will accelerate uptake.  For example:

  • How do we better leverage the synergy between green building and desired resiliency outcomes?
  • How do we coalesce around a common language for resilient buildings? In other words, how do we keep score, measure and verify?
  • What are the policies we need to accelerate resilient buildings?
  • How do we establish and articulate the business case for resilient buildings?
  • How do we unlock financing for resilient buildings?
  • How do we engage new stakeholders?

Just like sustainability, resiliency is a journey not a destination.  Together, we have embarked on this important journey to find the answers to these questions, which will pave the road to a more sustainable and more resilient built environment.

by Jason Hartke, Ph.D.
U.S. Green Building Council

Jason Hartke with ICLEI Chairman for Urban Agendas Konrad Otto-Zimmermann

Jason Hartke (left) with ICLEI Chairman for Urban Agendas Konrad Otto-Zimmermann