Green Building and Climate Resilience: A Report by the U.S. Green Building Council + University of Michigan

Green Building and Climate Resilience: A Report by the U.S. Green Building Council + University of Michigan
Urban Science Center / SMP Architects; Photo © Halkin Photography

As many of us have already realized, sustainable design contributes to an awareness of environmental patterns and thereby creates communities that are more resilient to the devastating effects of the natural disasters that we have seen across the globe in recent months. Many people have accepted the cause and effect relationship that exists between current practices – those that pollute water and food sources, strip minerals, disturb fault linesand throw off ecosystems – with the rapidly increasing changes in climate. For those that do not, U.S. Green Building Council and the University of Michigan released this report: Green Building and Climate Resilience: Understanding Impacts and Preparing for Changing Conditions, which addresses pre- and post-emergency management situations while stressing a consciousness about the environment and ways in which to design and build communities that are physically and structurally prepared for natural disasters.

More on this report after the break.

Part of the reason why buildings designed with LEED credits and energy efficient systems in mind are more resilient to the affects of natural disasters is that these designs consider a buildings peak performance in response to temperature changes, precipitation, wind loads and other environmental factors that become magnified and dangerous in natural disasters.  This simple consciousness about how a building responds to these factors changes the way in which it will perform when they surpass the assumptions with which they were designed.  At least, in this case, the building has some measures to deal with these fluctuations, such as rainwater collection or diversion during floods.

Courtesy of Perkins+Will

The document serves as a guide on the “regional-level and prioritize design, construction and operation strategies that increase resilience and facilitate climate adaptation”. (via report) Adaptation, in this regard, means acknowledging that trends change. The report follows this two-fold strategy of adaptation and resilience by stating that current design practices only consider historic trends, relying on them to remain stable, when it is obvious that fluctuations in the environment have become increasing unpredictable and severe.

Courtesy of Holcim Awards

Covering a variety of scales from regional to neighborhood, the document addresses site scale when designing projects in order to consider the components of the building itself and how it handles/affects the environment.

Energy Use Diagram - Advanced Energy Center, Stony Brook University - Courtesy of Flad Architects

After giving an overview of considerations, the report goes on to detail specific strategies for design from the envelope to passive heating and cooling systems, plumbing and electrical systems, to materials, to rethinking the standards by which most architects and engineers design the components of a building. The document is also full of additional resources to find policy-makers, market solutions for further figures, research and data.  The report serves as a guide in addition to being educational research.  It addresses what is happening in the global environment today, the potential strategies that currently work and how they can continue to be adapted for the future.

Water Filtration System - Courtesy of Perkins+Will

Check out this list of sustainable office buildings, the Vele High School that won Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize in 2008 for its holistic approach to sustainable design, innovation and economic feasibility, the 1315 Peachtree designed by Perkins+Will, the Urban Science Center by SMP Architects and the Stony Brook Advanced Science Center by Flad Architects for examples of resilient and adaptive design for climate change.

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Cite: Irina Vinnitskaya. "Green Building and Climate Resilience: A Report by the U.S. Green Building Council + University of Michigan" 17 Mar 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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