Resilience has climbed to the top of the buzz word charts for commercial design, even though it is a relatively new concept for commercial buildings. In 2009 Madni and Jackson defined resilience as "the ability to build systems that are able to circumvent accidents through anticipation, survive disruptions through recovery, and grow through adaptation." Some researchers even consider building resiliency as the ideal goal, instead of just environmentally positive, net-zero energy new construction buildings. But when facility managers start looking into capital improvements for their existing buildings, considering both resiliency and sustainability in tandem means getting much more bang for your buck. We've outlined three key areas in which building resilience and sustainability complement each other. Investing in these will have substantial environmental, financial, and safety benefits for companies, their employees and surrounding communities.
Reducing energy use translates to leaner systems that can run longer when cut off from external power sources. In the context of building resilience, those systems range from HVAC and lighting to emergency power generation. Laura Richardson, Executive Director of The Jordan Institute, a nonprofit energy efficiency organization says, "Energy costs and supply are dynamic. If you can reduce those energy costs...and if you couple efficiency upgrades with renewable energy systems – photovoltaic, solar thermal, wood pellets – then you really close the gap between sustainability and resilience." By implementing an energy efficiency management program, that combines tracking energy use with building and process improvements your facility can reduce the amount of energy needed for daily operations, resulting in big savings, a smaller environmental footprint, and improved resiliency.
Exteriors, envelope, and ventilation
When temperature from inside a building is allowed to escape it changes the environment outside of the building. This is a concept called drift temperature and is effected directly by improvements to building envelope, filling exterior cracks, and properly sealing around ventilation. What's more, focusing on these things has an immediate payback because they save energy year-round, reducing energy bills and increasing facility efficiency. If a passive ventilation system is practical for a facility, it can be both an energy efficiency and resilience strategy as well. These changes translate to a more comfortable, safer environment after a disaster, allowing normal operations to continue for longer, a key component of building resilience.
Water and storm water
Water efficiency is often the last check on a long building greening list, and sometime even forgotten. But reducing water use can be done through simple low cost improvements that lead to big savings. Stormwater management can help improve a buildings sustainability through sewer savings and reused water, but it also makes the surrounding community more resilient through flood prevention and reduced pollution. Stormwater capture can be broken into two approaches: detention systems that manage the storm water runoff from building sites, and retention systems that utilize the storm water for other purposes, such as irrigation, toilet flushing, and cooling tower makeup. The EPA has increased visibility of storm water management by calling for federal and local funding to help businesses offset the cost of improvements, making greening and building resilience projects more accessible for many facilities. As with energy, conserving water means both using fewer resources and being able to continue day-to-day business if the municipal water supply is cut off.