Sustainability versus Resilience

As the climate change dialogue continues to heat up (pun intended,) I've noticed the shift in conversation from sustainability to resilience. My common sense view says that sustainability implies engaging in practices that lessen if not eliminate impact on climate, and represents best practices when considering the COMPLETE equation when undertaking real estate development. Resilience in my mind means the damage is done, let's stop while there's still hope of not triggering yet further irreversible damage and prepare for the inevitable that we have already set in motion.

Consider the following as a concrete example. In developing a 10,000 square foot primary care/urgent clinic, I want to mindful of healthy building materials for occupants as well as impact on the planet. I want to understand and manage the amount of energy and water consumption. I also want to create feedback loops that allow me to monitor and refine operating systems and the building envelope to optimize the building as it's commissioned and put into service. That, to me, is a sustainable approach to development.

Reflecting on resiliency issues brings another set of criteria to the table. Can I lessen dependence on municipal water supplies by incorporating rainwater capture and use in both the interior and exterior environments? What about new advances in drawing moisture from the air? Can I introduce renewable energy sources to ensure the clinic can operate even when power supplies may be knocked out either through a weather event or terrorist act? Are there black water treatment strategies that lessen dependence on centralized systems? What formulas are most appropriate for calculating true cost impacts over the lifecycle of the clinic as an operating entity and the building as a service platform? Does the increase, decrease or perhaps have a "net zero" impact on my pro forma?

Consider this map recently released by climatologists forecasting the impact of climate change on regions of the world: It's a sobering forecast of where we may be in 90 years. Even more sobering is the notion that this is a process...does anyone know how fast or slow this unfolds? How accurate can a 90 year forecast be? Too much? Too little? If we know that these dynamics are baked into the cake (no pun intended this time) what elements should we begin to consider as necessary design features to include in new construction? Do larger rain events as oceans warm imply that we should increase building and site drainage to accommodate the heavier flow for instance?

My opinion is yes to all above. Sharpen pencils and tighten up formulas to consider not only sustainability but also resilience particularly for longer term occupants of real estate. Extend the time horizon over which we can expect these buildings to serve our needs by incorporating resilience thinking into design.