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Exploring Resilience: Resilient Design Vs Sustainable Design, and Why It Matters In Puerto Rico

If you Google the word “resilience,” the first thing to come up is a definition that talks about the ability to recover quickly, to bounce back, or to be tough. As you scroll down through the search results, most of the links are psychology-related with one or two about the financial resilience of businesses. You’ll typically have to dig further to find a reference to environmental resilience or to the resilient design of buildings. These lessons, however, have become more important than ever when it comes to design and construction in Puerto Rico.

That first definition fits all of those very different contexts. Whether it refers to a human being, a community, or a company, resilience is the ability to recover from adversity, to return to some sense of normalcy aftershock or stress, or to adapt to a changing environment. With respect to buildings and communities, resilience is also the act of maintaining livable conditions – through deteriorating or even devastating circumstances – at all levels and scales of development. This is why we at DDD Group hold this value at such a high level and incorporate it into everything we design and build.

Resilient design isn’t the same as sustainable design, but they have a lot in common. According to the Resilient Design Institute, it is “the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in order to respond to natural and manmade disasters and disturbances—as well as long-term changes resulting from climate change….” Resilient design is, in a lot of ways, an expansion of the definition of sustainable design.

For architects and designers, it is another layer in the design process. For building owners, it’s an added cost, but at the same time, it is a necessary investment in their properties. In light of all the unexpected, unprecedented changes taking place in the Island, more owners and developers are recognizing the need for such investment.

While there is still debate of climate change and its known impacts around the world, people in coastal regions – especially our projects in the tropical zones – and flood-prone areas know that there are dramatic changes in the weather, the unique demands of the topography and – as it now appears to be the new trend – earthquakes.

Investors, developers, and owners of structures of all sizes are now starting to understand that it isn’t “a waste of money”, to invest in better buildings and infrastructure. Fortunately, much of the initiative to pursue resilience is coming (literally and figuratively) from the ground up, involving local, state and the federal government, nonprofits and community organizations, and the building industry itself.



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