Resilient Design by Thom Powell, AIA, LEED AP

Resilient Design by Thom Powell, AIA, LEED AP

With the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities program, there is a newly acquired focus on Resilient Design.  While Resilient Design is intuitively understood, there needs to be a clarification in the definition to truly understand the parameters of Resilient Design.

According to the Resilient Design Institute, “Resilient Design is not any single concept or perspective.  Resiliency is a multifaceted lens which balances pro-activity and reactivity to inform solutions to disruptions.  Resilient Design is taking that lens and using it to rethink the built environment.”  At the scale of a single building, GFF considers this balanced approach to building design as the office standard.

1407 main

1407 Main Street

As an example of this approach, 1407 Main Street is designed to uphold many of the tenets of resilient design.  Instead of making use of the existing basement, the design team chose to place the entirety of the 16-story building above the street level.  This decision prevents the building from being susceptible to flooding, particularly in case of an event where the downtown tunnel system might act as a conduit to the river.  In addition, for the envelope of the building, the design team chose a 7-1/2” curtain wall system to provide a continuous barrier to protect against the elements.  All glass and metal panels are glazed into the curtain wall system, providing a minimal number of material transitions.  Working with the glazing manufacturer, the design team selected glass that had a low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, providing a thermal envelope 28% better than the code requirement.  It was important to the design team to create a design to meet the future warmer climatic conditions as much as possible, rather than relying solely on past weather data.  To ensure that the building would still maintain livable conditions in the event of an extended loss of power, every apartment unit has manually operable doors and windows to allow for airflow.  There is a fuel-powered generator at the ground level to power the building if needed.  The exposed concrete floors and ceilings also serve to passively cool the building during the summer months, taking advantage of its natural thermal mass, while providing an interior finish that can dry out if it gets wet, without requiring the replacement of the finishes.  This strategy to rely on vernacular design practices that were prevalent before the advent of air conditioning and central heating and reducing the dependence on complex building controls and systems contributes to the creation of an AIA Dallas Design Award winning building that is well cared for and easily maintained.  The combination of these design strategies with modern materials optimizes resilient design and is an inherent part of the GFF design process.

Perot

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

At the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, GFF teamed with mOrphosis, providing the sustainable design strategies as the Sustainable Design consultant.  One strategy incorporated into the project was The Holistic Approach to the Collection and Dispersion of Water to carry out water conservation practices that rely on annually replenished resources using rainwater harvesting.  The project incorporates a rainwater catchment system that includes redundant water supply and water storage for use during emergencies.  There are 3 cisterns on site that are linked together to allow 50,000 gallons of water to flow between them as necessary.  The toilets are flushed with water stored in the cisterns and landscape materials are watered from the cistern.  During summer months, the condensate from the air conditioning system is captured and stored in the cistern system as well.  In the event of non-operating municipal wastewater system, the waterless urinals will allow the facility to continue operations.  The project has been certified by Green Globes with a maximum 4 Globe rating, as well as achieving Sustainable Sites Initiative Certification and LEED Version 2009 Gold Certification.  The project received a maximum 10 out of 10 points in the LEED Water Efficiency category.  In 2016, the Perot Museum operations team reported that the museum’s water consumption was operating at a level that is 99.8% below the baseline.  For the exterior of the building, the design team worked extensively with local craftsmen to make the most of the locally available skill-sets to create a precast concrete envelope that is both unique and durable.  All materials within the building envelope were specified and procured to meet LEED referenced standards for low VOC materials.  The Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a recipient of an AIA Honor Award for Architectural Design.  This project represents GFF’s sustainable design aspirations for every project.

There is a significant overlap between Resilient Design and Sustainable Design.  However, Resilient Design requires the design team to think about the future in speculative terms and the uncertainty that lies therein.