Taking on the Question: What is “Resilience” Planning?

8.7.12 | “Resilience” as a concept gets a lot of buzz., but it’s also one of those terms, like “sustain ability,” that is a bit fuzzy.  So what does it really mean on the ground, in action? Kevin C. Desouza and his colleagues at the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech are exploring that in weekly meetings, and have arrived at a early list of six key findings, which he shared on Planetizen.

As the writes, the goal of the weekly conversation is to discuss ”what exactly it means to be resilient in a planning context, whether this is a laudable goal, and, if so, how we can achieve it.”

DeSouza summarizes six key findings to date on how planners and developers plan and implement “resilience.” I’m abbreviating these here– he does a much better job of explaining on Planetizen.

1. “Resilience” as a term needs some specificity.

2. Context matters: you can’t be resilient against every conceivable thing. Therefore, one must ask, resilient to what, and for how long?

3. Resilience should be conceived in two parts: the part that is the “verb”–the act of planning for a resilient response, and the part that is the “adjective” (or noun): the built thing that is resilient. However, as he writes, “these relations are not always obvious or simple. For instance, does resilient planning lead to construction of resilient plans? Do resilient plans incorporate elements that allow for resilient designs?”

4. Failure is common.

5. “Interdisciplinary” is a current “best practice” but it doesn’t always lend itself to resilient results. Such teams too often take too long, they build bulkier plans, and they don’t tend to build tactical plans.

6. Engaging local stakeholders is key to successfully resilient plans.

We look forward to continued posts on their progress. In the meantime, they’re asking viewers to join in the conversation, asking:

1) How do you evaluate the resilience of plans and artifacts?

2) What tactics/practices do you think add resilience to the planning and designing process?

3) How do you incorporate the concept of resilience in your daily work practices?

In a different post on resilience, Rives Taylor, an architect with the firm Gensler, takes up the question over at Urban Land, asking:  ”Will Engineered Resilience Eclipse Sustainability?

In his work, he is seeing sustainability and “greening” dollars morphing into managing risk and threats in other forms– aka “engineered resilience.”  But resilience, he argues, is more than building bunkers that can withstand any threat to human safety or business interruption (risk management, in other words). The challenge, he argues, “is to keep resilience human, stopping well short of creating buildings and campuses that look and live like bomb shelters.”

Like a prairie’s robust and interlinked ecosystem, a building should be built with “multiple redundancies  such that when one part fails, another part springs into action. As he writes:

“That is exactly how engineered resilience should be approached—not by an obvious “hardening” and dehumanizing of a building, but by designing it to be flexible and adaptable when put under stress. That is largely done by designing multiple redundancies (also known as diversity) into its critical systems for power and water, into a smart envelope, into the site design, and into the building’s connection to the community. If one system or approach fails, another is designed to kick in, and potentially another after that, as part of a well-choreographed response to trouble—like a boxer bobbing and weaving to avoid a punch and remain standing.”

This “engineered resilience” is yet another form of resilience planning, albeit with a more contained focus of single buildings. However, the concepts emerging in this and other discussions are all connected, and worth a read.



Comments are closed.