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Four reasons resiliency is the new sustainability

Best Practices ESG Industry News
  • December 3, 2020 | Helee Lev
Four reasons resiliency is the new sustainability

Four reasons resiliency is the new sustainability

Whether considering worst-case disasters or everyday wear and tear, a building’s sustainability is important, but its resiliency is non-negotiable. Resiliency takes sustainability to the next level; by definition, in order for a property to truly be sustainable at its core, it must also be resilient. Whether a tornado strikes, a hurricane brings massive flooding, or a fire blazes through the area, buildings should be designed to withstand these disasters along with the everyday movement within the building.

Here are four reasons why resiliency is the new sustainability and why you should begin crafting the business case for prioritizing resiliency and implementing it across your commercial real estate portfolio.

1. Earthquake damage can be avoided

A lot of the damage caused to buildings by earthquakes is the result of poor design and construction. In newer, more modern buildings, there are new technologies that allow buildings to withstand severe seismic activity. One example of this new technology is base isolation, which involves decoupling the base of a building from the rest of the structure so that only the base will move during an earthquake. Good seismic design helps a building remain resilient.

2. Resilient infrastructure is vital to combat effects of climate change

Climate change is raising sea levels and increasing the frequency and strength of natural disasters; the increasingly severe weather patterns put great strain on the infrastructure of a building. Buildings constructed in areas with frequent hurricanes and flooding require special attention in their design to cope with severe wind, heavy precipitation, and ground-level flooding. Buildings in hurricane-prone areas need to be properly sealed and include adequate drainage solutions for basements, terraces, and any other areas where water accumulates. These features help improve the building’s resiliency, as seen when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston in 2017; the same storm struck hundreds of buildings in the city without mercy, and it’s no coincidence that some stood stronger than others.

3. Blackouts and outages happen... often

Power outages and blackouts happen more often than one may think. In order for a building to be resilient, it must be able to bounce back quickly during outages. Many commercial building designers and developers are now helping buildings maintain resiliency by installing backup power generators on higher floors, maintaining off-the-grid heating and cooling capabilities, installing airtight building ventilation, and ensuring that natural ventilation is available when air conditioning is not. In some designs, buildings have gone completely “off the grid”, eschewing conventional sources and relying entirely on renewables to provide power to their facility.

4. True resiliency also involves targeting normal wear & tear

The average building has a lifespan of around 73 years; over the course of these 73 years, millions of people will move throughout the property. Resilient buildings must be able to withstand consistent use as much as natural disasters. To prepare a building to be resilient towards this type of wear and tear, designers must build durability into the structure itself, including a tight building envelope and long-lasting, low-maintenance interior design finishes. The building envelope must include tight seals for windows and entryways to keep moisture out. Designers will use more durable materials for doors, flooring, and walls that can withstand high amounts of traffic. One example of this would be installing interior guards like handrails and crash rails. A timeless design is also more sustainable as it requires fewer upgrades and less maintenance throughout the lifetime of the building.

Resiliency is the new sustainability

Everything from hurricanes to high volumes of movement within a building can threaten the health of its infrastructure. The thought and design processes that go into establishing a building’s resiliency must surpass the criteria that make it sustainable.

Helee Lev

Helee joined our team in 2012, overseeing strategic account management, new business, and industry alliances. In 2015, she participated in raising $5M of venture capital funding. She leads sales, business development, and Conservice ESG's strategic consulting group.

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