Climate change has become the challenge of our generation. Yet even with significant strides made in climate change mitigation we must prepare for the wide range of climate impacts from the irreversible damage of existing GHG emissions levels in our atmosphere. The increasing occurrence of natural disasters serves to remind us that resilience to climatic extremes offers the most sustainable pathway to design – by ensuring durability and habitability over time.

Our attitude to climate change must adapt in order to view its impacts through both mitigation and resilience lenses.

This shift in attitude should advance beyond sustainable design, net zero or even regenerative design strategies. Building design should consider the localised impacts of a changing climate and integrate resilience & adaptation measures. After all, how sustainable can a building really be considered if rendered obsolete before its service life?

What is Resiliency?
Resiliency is the elasticity, or adaptability of buildings to ‘endure’ and maintain operations in extreme climatic events. It requires designers to identify hazards and vulnerabilities local to a given site, before projecting impacts and implementing measures that reduce risk and increase flexibility to adapt. Ultimately, the result can lead to strong, resilient communities that reduce vulnerability to climate change.

Resilient Design in Practice
Chan Gunn Pavilion, the University of British Columbia’s pioneering new sports medicine centre presented the ideal platform to implement many innovative approaches to resilient and adaptive design. This proposed facility will replace the existing Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre and will provide state of the art medical care, diagnostic facilities and fitness programs for both the general population and competitive athletes. The project team saw potential to go beyond the LEED Gold certification target and explore how the buildings resiliency could be enhanced to ensure it can still function as intended in changing climatic conditions.

Working collaboratively with the various client stakeholders, HCMA conducted a climate resilience assessment which evaluated risks to the site resulting from natural hazards – under both current and predicted future climatic scenarios. The resultant design increases resilience by increasing its ‘passive survivability’ – using methods that provide internal comfort control without use of active mechanical components, and a subsequent reliance on energy to function.

Forward Thinking
From early concept design, performance modelling was used to predict the buildings energy demand and evaluate if thermal comfort criteria were being met for a range of naturally ventilated spaces. Yet the ability to assess performance under projected climate change scenarios offered revealing insights to an often overlooked parameter – can this design still carry out its intended function throughout its life-cycle with climate change considered?

Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) - A regional climate service centre at the University of Victoria.
Climate Change World Weather File Generator – Developed by the University of Southampton, UK, this tool generates weather data simulation files in accordance with IPCC climate change projections.
LEED Pilot Credits – The US Green Building Council (USGBC) have developed a range of LEED pilot credits focusing on Resilient Design in collaboration with the Resilient Design Institute.
BREEAM Resilience Integration – The BREEAM rating system has also taken measures to integrate climate change adaptation and resilience throughout its requirements.