Resilient Design in a Changing World :: Thoughts from SGA

Resilient Design in a Changing World :: Thoughts from SGA 
Meredith Juliana

*part of the "Thoughts from SGA" Blog series

This past week we all looked on as the weather report and news told us about the forecasted and actual destruction associated with Hurricane Matthew as it traveled through the Caribbean and made its way to the southeastern United States. We doubled checked with our family and friends in the affected areas to ensure their safety and kept one eye on our studio work and the other on the news. Hurricane Matthew was at a category 4 as it traveled between Haiti and Cuba, up to the Bahamas and on to Florida. Current reports have said that it beginning to lose some steam and has dropped to a category 3 hurricane with winds at 120 miles per hour as it passes from Florida into Georgia today. Matthew will certainly have left its mark by the time it dissipates this weekend.

As I followed the news of this record breaking, late season storm, I was struck by the reminder that our world is changing and that there are big issues to be resolved that often land on the plates of designers, planners and communities as whole. Recently, the American Society of Landscape Architecture released a guide to entitled “Resilient Design” which discusses design ideas in the face of disruptive natural events, the main topic of which is working with nature instead of in opposition to it. This guide discusses the “new-normal” that comes along with changes to our climate and environment and discusses resilient landscape planning and design as a way forward for communities around the world. They detail out design solutions and case studies for several different extreme events that we, as a global population, will have to deal with in the future, and in most cases are dealing with today. These events include biodiversity loss, drought, extreme heat, fire, flooding and landslides.

I find myself, perhaps over-optimistically, thinking that resilient design might be the key to keeping people healthy, safe and happy in the face of global climate change. This feeling is vaguely reminiscent to the feeling that sustainability might be the key to facing global climate change, with one major difference: it seems to me that resilient design indicates a community aspect that is not a pervasive presence in sustainability. Perhaps, sustainability is a part of resilient design, just as community development and involvement are a part of resilient design. The ASLA guide states that “the goal of resilient landscape planning and design is to retrofit our communities to recover more quickly from extreme event, now and in the future.” Inherent in this definition is the implication that communities must work together and that designers must work with communities for resilient design to work. We already know that this kind of design works to help communities better serve their own needs, and resilient design offers a way to help communities deal with our changing climate.