Resilience may be one of the defining issues of this coming century. There are global shifts already in motion, such as climate change, overpopulation, resource inequality and other chronic social and environmental stresses, which are proving ever more difficult to mitigate against.

Even the most established societies are repeatedly overwhelmed by the current velocity and amalgamation of such changes; permitting little time to effectively adapt and endure disturbances seamlessly and unscathed.

These events must act as a wakeup call for authors of the built environment. The forecast is clear, these events are likely to increase in intensity and incidence – and this has to be addressed in future design. Therefore, architects, engineers and politicians alike have substantial contributions to make in order to mute the impacts of changing conditions at a local scale and bolster community level resilience.

Sustainability has become well established in today’s lexicon, whereas resilience, has been comparatively overshadowed – that is, until recently. Resilient design strategies are complimentary to the objective of sustainability, and the two are mutually reinforcing. However, resilience aims to surpass sustainable design, addressing the relationship between urban development, disaster risk management, climate change and sustainability simultaneously, to provide elegant and enduring solutions to current and future challenges through an assortment of traditional and innovative techniques.

Source: Adapted from CCAP

According to the Resilient Design Institute, resilient design is defined as ‘the intentional design of buildings, landscapes and communities to adapt to changing conditions in order to maintain functionality’. The methodology behind this concept is based on eight key principles:

  • Resilience Transcends Scale
  • Resilience Safeguards Basic Human Needs
  • Resilience Incorporates Diverse and Redundant Systems
  • Passive and Flexible Solutions Are Superior
  • Local, Renewable Resources Are Superior
  • Resilience Anticipates Change and context
  • Resilience Identifies and Mimics Solutions in Nature
  • Resilience is not absolute

Building on these fundamental principles and the synergies between sustainability and resilience, what strategies are we at XCO2 championing to create durable, safe and future resistant structures and communities?

Flooding and Sea Level Rise

Let’s first focus on what is potentially the most threatening and well reported challenge in recent years – flooding from acute weather events and sea level rise. Risks that both stem from an increase in global temperature due to the anthropogenic acceleration of the greenhouse effect.

Source: NASA & IPCC

Temperature and sea level projections are expected to continue on their current trajectory, in tandem with the exponential increase of people living in coastal zones, which makes integrating resilient design strategies a necessity for areas at risk of flooding now, as well as in the future.

At a proposed hotel in the Caribbean, flooding from sea level rise and surface water runoff is a serious concern and various mechanisms have been proposed;

Sea level rise and exacerbated flooding via coastal erosion will be combated by incorporating beach armouring, beach restoration, groynes and artificial breakwaters into the development. These techniques and structures will protect the coastal expanse of the resort from aggressive storm surges and, by abiding by the principles of resilient design, have the capacity to abate the risks associated with the projected change in sea level.

Moreover, the resort is situated in a natural drainage basin with a central river system, which makes safeguarding against flooding from surface waters challenging. However, plans to include extensive sub-surface water retention crates – to moderate the runoff and regulate the discharge directly to the sea during extreme weather events – should result in little disruption to the resort. Additionally, a major adaptation technique has been employed to completely divert of a section of the local river, achieved with the application of a weir and box culvert – this is a considerable engineering endeavour, but once executed will significantly reduce the associated risk and enhance the resorts resilience enormously.


Secondly, temperature. Warm summers days are considered a cause for celebration in the UK. However, as illustrated in the previous graph, global average temperature is rising uncontrollably, and is predicted to continue this way exponentially. If the business as usual scenario (RCP 8.5) is realised, global temperatures could leap by 5°C globally before 2100, which would have a significant impact in places that currently experience extreme temperature highs.

The Ark is a concept proposed in Dubai, a city which could experience such extreme highs, with average summer temperatures in excess of 45°C – given the current projections. These temperatures are particularly threatening for human health as cells start perishing at temperatures from around 41°C. Therefore, resilient buildings are critical for well-being in order to allow regions to remain habitable and provide residents refuge from the heat.

For The Ark, various measures of passive and energy efficient design were proposed to alleviate the climatic conditions indoors. These included; high efficiency glazing, internal and external shading, a low thermal mass, deliberate orientation away from the sun and even an algal façade for energy generation whilst reducing solar penetration into the building (a potentially feasible technology which is close to realisation). All focusing on reducing the thermal gain of the building and the resulting space cooling load, and at the same time capturing useful solar energy from the sun. When adhering to the principles of resilient design it is necessary to focus on passive solutions first rather than energy demanding quick fixes, such as air conditioning systems. Incorporating passivity removes the buildings dependency on an external energy supply and promotes independence and ultimately, resilience.

Water Stress

The final issue to mention in this article (by no means are these three issues a comprehensive list of the challenges which can be addressed through resilient design) is current and predicted water scarcity.

Water stress is felt across the globe, but there are simple methods of harvesting, recycling and reusing water using inexpensive and passive systems which typify resilient design and its principles.

Source: Water Resources Institute

The proposed resort at Kaplankaya in Turkey is a prime example of a site in a region of intensifying water stress, with the added hurdle of having no connection to the mains water network. Therefore, this project implemented basic water saving methods, such as rainwater collection, grey water treatment and black water treatment, as well as more creative measures to achieve true water self sufficiency year round.

In addition to these rudimentary strategies a desalination plant was proposed, which is to be powered independently by solar energy. However, what makes Kaplankaya stand out from other resorts is the innovative way these approaches are harmoniously linked to the natural environment to create a series of ponds and lagoons. The pools vary with the potable water demand, availability of recycled greywater, the brine output from the desalination plant and the seasons to create adaptable amenity spaces for hotel guests. The implementation of these artificial lagoons is a clear example of how identifying and emulating natural systems is a valuable tool in building resilience.

Moreover, the proposed water strategy at Kaplankaya has been embedded with renewable energy sources such as; micro-hydro and pumped hydroelectric energy storage, to create a fully integrated system that utilises the complimentary nature of sustainability and resilience, to create a holistic and truly independent network.

With these principles and case studies in mind we reached out to HKS Architects during a lunchtime workshop to provide creative and fresh perspectives on possible strategies to enhance the resilience of future resort masterplans, and these are some of their inventive solutions:

A resort in Bangladesh at risk of flooding; buildings have been elevated to avoid water damage, amphibious access points have been integrated and local, renewable resources such as bamboo have been utilised for construction.

A resort in the Costa Rican Rainforest with no access to the water network; large rainwater collectors have been placed around the site imitating trees with an added solar capacity, also water storage facilities and irrigation methods have been integrated for communal gardens.

A resort in Oman with high temperatures and low water availability; vast external shading methods, both artificial and natural have been included, high thermal mass has also been incorporated into the design in addition to earth coupling to provide a temperature buffer for the site during the day and dissipate heat during the cooler night-time period.

Many thanks to HKS Architects for their participation and imaginative designs. If you would like to find out about more about any of the solutions mentioned or how we can implement other resilient concepts into early-stage design, please get in touch.

Tags  Working with Architects  Operational Energy  Environment Resilience  Sustainability