Cities face an important challenge: they must rethink themselves in the context of planetary change. What role do cities play in the evolution of Earth? From a planetary perspective, the emergence and rapid expansion of cities across the globe may represent another turning point in the life of our planet. Earth’s atmosphere, on which we all depend, emerged from the metabolic process of vast numbers of single-celled algae and bacteria living in the seas 2.3 billion years ago. These organisms transformed the environment into a place where human life could develop. Adam Frank, an Astrophysicist at the University of Rochesters, reminds us that the evolution of life has completely changed big important characteristics of the planet. Can humans now change the course of Earth’s evolution? Can the way we build cities determine the probability of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt change on a planetary scale?
Crucially, this new kind of growth must occur within our systems of settling and inhabiting the Earth: the architecture of our cities, towns, and countrysides. This “ecologically resilient” architecture, in the words of resilience pioneer C. S. Holling, must be able to withstand chaotic, non-linear events, beyond the narrow parameters of “engineered resilience.” More than that, our technological growth needs to become, as political economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb has termed it, “antifragile” — able to learn, and even to gain from disorder.
1. Resilience transcends scales. Strategies to address resilience are relevant at scales of individual buildings, communities, and larger regional and ecosystem scales.
2. Diverse systems are inherently more resilient. More diverse communities, ecosystems, economies, and social systems are better able to respond to interruptions or change, making them inherently more resilient.
3. Redundancy enhances resilience. While sometimes in conflict with efficiency and green building priorities, redundant systems for such needs as electricity, water, and transportation, improve resilience.
4. Simple, elegant, passive systems are more resilient. Features like passive heating and cooling strategies for buildings and natural swales for stormwater management are more resilient than complex systems that can break down and require ongoing maintenance.
5. Durability strengthens resilience. Features that increase durability, such as rainscreen details on buildings, windows designed to withstand hurricane winds, biological erosion-control measures that grow stronger over time, and beautiful buildings that will be maintained for generations, enhance resilience.
6. Locally available, renewable resources are more resilient. Reliance on abundant local resources, such as solar energy and annually replenished groundwater, provides greater resilience than nonrenewable resources from far away.
7. Resilience anticipates interruptions and a dynamic future. Adaptation to a changing climate with higher temperatures, more intense storms, flooding, drought, and wildfire is a growing necessity, while non-climate-related natural disasters, such as earthquakes and solar flares, and anthropogenic actions like terrorism and cyberterrorism, call for resilient design.
8. Find resilience in nature. Natural systems have evolved to achieve resilience; we can enhance our resilience by relying on or applying lessons from nature.
9. Resilience is not absolute. Recognize that incremental steps can be taken and that “total resilience” in the face of all situations is not possible. Implement what is feasible and work to achieve greater resilience in stages.
The purpose of the research insights is to stimulate social-ecological research and resilience theory. They synthesize research achievements for teaching and training and for broader communication and present lessons learned in an accessible fashion.
Topics include Transformations, Regime Shifts, Adaptive Governance, Social-Ecological Innovations, Social-Ecological Traps, and Knowledge Systems and Learning.
Understanding the interconnected problems facing humanity often requires seeing the world in a new way. David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, explores how questioning the outdated assumptions underlying "business as usual" approaches is the first step in designing for a resilient future.
This was the opening keynote from SOCAP: Designing the Future, held in Malmö, Sweden from May 8-10, 2012.
A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.
In this brief overview, by design resilience we mean a deliberate tactic employed in strategic design that applies Pareto’s Principle to choice architectures, generating ‘quick win’ measurable actions for better decision making; with the intent of increasing adaptive capacity within a strategic design framework. When leveraged by high-level design thinkers such as architects, these small re-configurations builds trust and empathy between multi-disciplinary expertise, by drawing on a common language and value systems, forming the basis of highly contextualised strategic intent.
“How do you understand resilience conceptually at present?” First, discourse matters. The term resilience is important because it focuses not on us, the development and disaster response community, but rather on local at-risk communities. While “vulnerability” and “fragility” were used in past discourse, these terms focus on the negative and seem to invoke the need for external protection, overlooking the fact that many local coping mechanisms do exist. From the perspective of this top-down approach, international organizations are the rescuers and aid does not arrive until these institutions mobilize...
Today’s designers seem to love using new ideas coming from science. They embrace them as analogies, metaphors, and in a few cases, tools to generate startling new designs. (Computer algorithms and spline shapes are a good recent example of the latter.) But metaphors about the complexity of the city and its adaptive structures are not the same thing as the actual complexity of the city. The trouble is, this confusion can produce disastrous results. It can even contribute to the slow collapse of an entire civilization.
We have previously described four key characteristics of resilient structures in natural systems: diversity; web-network structure; distribution across a range of scales; and the capacity to self-adapt and “self-organize.” We showed how these features allow a structure to adapt to shocks and changes that might otherwise prove catastrophic.
We also argued that a more resilient future for humankind demands new technologies incorporating precisely these characteristics. As a result, environmental design, especially, is set to change dramatically.
But such desirable characteristics do not exist as abstract entities. Rather, they are embodied in the physical geometries of our world — the relationship between elements in space. As we will discuss here, these geometries typically arise from the processes that produce resilience, but in turn they go on to create — or to destroy — the capacity for resilience in their own right. So if we want a more resilient future, we first need to understand these geometries, and the technological and economic processes that produce them.
The word “resilience" is bandied about these days among environmental designers. In some quarters, it’s threatening to displace another popular word, “sustainability.” This is partly a reflection of newsworthy events like Hurricane Sandy, adding to a growing list of other disruptive events like tsunamis, droughts, and heat waves. We know that we can’t design for all such unpredictable events, but we could make sure our buildings and cities are better able to weather these disruptions and bounce back afterwards. At a larger scale, we need to be able to weather the shocks of climate change, resource destruction and depletion, and a host of other growing challenges to human wellbeing. We need more resilient design, not as a fashionable buzzword, but out of necessity for our long-term survival.
With the resilience concept omnipresent in sustainability research and policy-making, there is a risk of it turning into a buzzword void of substance and lost of meaning.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre has previously produced the extremely popular publication called What is resilience? which gives the reader a general introduction to the thinking behind resilience and social-ecolocial systems.
Now, a new popular science publication has been produced, this time explaining the principles needed to be considered when applying resilience thinking.
March 22-23 / San Francisco - Explore design’s role in creating a more resilient world, with some of the world’s leading designers, entrepreneurs, scientists, architects and more. Fast-moving, reasonably priced, and loaded with actionable, inspiring insights, Compostmodern is a can’t-miss event for anyone interested in the cutting-edge of sustainability and design.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of co-presenting at SOCAP’s “Designing the Future” conference in Malmö, Sweden.
SOCAP, or Social Capital Markets, brings together social entrepreneurs, philanthropic funders, and impact investors dedicated to increasing the “flow of capital toward social good.” Back in September 2011, I led the Design for Social Innovation track at the SOCAP11 conference in San Francisco, and several others from Hot Studio set up drop-in consulting.
This time around I was joined by David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and Mauricio Apablaza, from Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Our talk focused on the idea of designing for resilience.
- Sarah Brooks, Director of Social Innovation at Hot Studio
"The Living Building Challenge is especially important at this make-it-or-break-it moment when humanity must rapidly address climate change in disruptive, systematic ways. At a cusp when world populations continue to place increasingly radical strains on the biosphere, innovating on how we redesign the built environment is imperative." – Kenny Ausubel, 2012 Challenge Juror
David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute (www.bfi.org), explores how the comprehensive strategies emerging from the Buckminster Fuller Challenge are addressing wicked problems around the world.
Featured talk for RE-VIEWING BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE 4: Looking Forward at Buckminster Fuller's Legacy September 28, 2012 Asheville, NC
In times of upheaval, why do some people, communities, companies and systems thrive, while others fall apart? That’s the question at the heart of an exciting new field, and an urgent new agenda for the 21st century. In Resilience, Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy bring you important scientific discoveries, pioneering social innovations, and vital new approaches to constructing a more resilient future. You may never look at your world, your organization, or yourself the same way again.