How to make stronger, longer-lasting buildings for the future

Whether your goal is eco-friendly construction or saving money, building a structure that lasts longer is a good idea. Climate change, worsening and more severe storms, and future uncertainty are all making it a wise choice to make buildings that can stand the test of time. Buildings – now more than ever – need to be prepared for rising sea levels, extreme storms, droughts, extreme heat/cold, and resource insecurity. 

What is resilient building?

Green building and resilient building may seem the same. Although the two ideas share a good deal of overlap, they actually have different end-goals in mind. 

Green building

The crux of eco-building, or green building is to minimize environmental impact. Green buildings are build with the aim of using less resources. They often are built with recycled mate rials, or more efficiently, using as few materials as possible. Green buildings often incorporate green energy as well. Solar water heaters, solar panels, photovoltaic cells, and fuel-efficient heating are good examples. Green buildings will also favor grassy, green roofs to help the local insect population. Some green buildings go even further, working to be carbon negative, or add more fresh water to the local environment.

Resilient building

Resilient buildings are built to withstand natural and human-caused disasters. Buildings that can resist fires, earthquakes, high winds, and the march of time are examples.

The Urban Land Institute states that the purpose of resilient building is aid in several facets. These are preparing buildings to resist climate change, better land use planning, real estate, and infrastructure. The main goal is that efforts not only reduce building vulnerability, but also strengthen cities by improving environmental and economic performance, as well as social equity.

Resilient buildings focus less on using fewer resources in the short run so that less resources will be required for reconstruction and repairs in the long run. 

Ultimately, the similarities between green and resilient buildings are that they both have less ecological impact over time. Green buildings do so via renewable energy and resource efficiency, resilient buildings do so via less long-term upkeep, and having a longer lifespan so they don’t need to be replaced.

Resilient building strategies

In order to build tougher buildings, we need to understand what they will be dealing with. There are two main types of threats: shocks, and stresses.

Acute Shocks

Shocks are sudden, intense disasters. They often occur without warning and can cause fast and massive damage. The following is a list of some common shocks that buildings can receive. 

  • Explosions (due to terrorism or accident)
  • Earthquakes
  • Flooding
  • Extreme storms
  • Fires

Chronic Stresses

Stresses are long-term problems that degrade a building. Stresses also negatively effect the people who use the building. Stresses include a wide variety of causes.

  • Constant extreme humidity and/or heat
  • Bad Air Quality
  • High crime rates
  • Poor infrastructure around the building
  • Lack of access/ lack of transportation to and from the building.

Strategies for dealing with stresses and shocks begin by assessing the building and its location. Building developers should look at the location of the building first. Does the building stand in the path of frequent storms? Is the infrastructure that supplies the building with electricity reliable? If there is a nearby storm, will it affect water supply to the building? How often do earthquakes happen in the area and what are there usual severity? Questions like these help builders analyze how to make buildings the most resilient. 

Structures in California should be earthquake, drought, and fire resistant. Meanwhile, structures in Oklahoma should be able to resist high winds and severe thunderstorms. If you are building a house in Louisiana, a chronic stress might be lack of clean water during flooding. 

Finding solutions that work for everyone

Urban areas tend to get hot. The absence of green space detracts from shade and slows carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. These baking areas in cities are called urban heat islands. They pose a chronic stress because as heat goes up so does air conditioner use. This puts a bigger burden on a city’s power infrastructure, stressing other parts of the community. A good solution to the urban heat island problem is to put trees and green space on top of buildings. The shade and greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere cools the environment. Thus, less air conditioning is required, and power usage goes down with it. 

Another community-wide benefit of resilient building is choosing better building space. This may seem obvious, but it’s great. As new constructions begin in spaces at less risk of catastrophe, whole communities spring up around them. These communities can be free from worry of flooding, drought, and other shocks/stresses that are endemic in some locations. Building in safer locations is cheaper as well, as it results in lower insurance premiums and less lost work during disasters.

Resilient Building Features

  1. Elevated building electrics/controls. This strategy ensures that flooding doesn’t destroy climate control, and power supply.
  2. Stormwater control systems.
  3. Co-generation of power, heat, and cooling. Multiple parts of a building, or even multiple buildings can share resources.
  4. Planting native plants. Native plants are used to local fluctuations in weather. They will help a building adjust to drought and flooding. Saltwater-resistant plants are also a good choice for coastal locations that flood frequently.
  5. Modular controls/systems. Systems that have changeable parts can keep a building running even while one part of the building is damaged or not functioning.

For a full list of resilient building features, look here.

Doing Your Own Resilient Construction

If you want to make your own resilient building, Reliable Commercial is here for you. We are experienced commercial contractors who keep up with the cutting edge of building trends. With over 35 years of experience, and a team of over 200 construction contractors, no job is too big or too difficult. Find out how to make your construction idea resilient – contact us today.