By Drake A. Wauters AIA, CSI/CDT, SCIP, IES posted 01-12-2014 09:03


Resilience will be a foundational word in the coming years with regard to buildings, sites, and communities.  The greatest challenge for which we seek higher levels of resilience is climate change. 

What does that mean from the finite point of view of North America and the building enclosure?

I suggest it means our building enclosures need to accommodate a wider range of conditions than most owners and architects considered previously.  If historic weather data presents a range of likely conditions we need to define a wider range that addresses owner, underwriter, and investor tolerance for risk in a changing world. 

I recently posted that clear shifts in plant hardiness maps were one indicator that weather patterns were changing in the US.  Since then I found that one of my favorite brick suppliers ended their production as their plant was struck with four “100-year floods” in only a few years and that lightning strike risk maps had also been changed in much the way the plant hardiness map had.

The stakeholders for buildings, sites, and communities may require the AEC community to provide levels of protection in response to more current data for North America than is folded in to our building codes through lengthy and divisive code modification cycles.  A new standard of care may be required that factors in recent weather patterns and an accepted projection at the time of design of what those patterns could be over the projected life of the building.

In our standards filled world we need, yes, a new standard based on projected climate change.  We also need to accept across the board that replacing buildings lost to weather events with identical designs and materials or siting them the same way are policy mistakes which will lead to far greater losses than necessary.