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The Blueprint for Resilient Homes in a Changing World

Resilient housing‘ refers to the design, construction, and maintenance of homes in a way that enables them to withstand and recover from various challenges and stresses, including natural disasters, economic fluctuations, and other unforeseen events. The concept is rooted in the idea of creating homes that can adapt and bounce back in the face of adversity. In this article, I will focus on two aspects of resilient housing in particular: resilience for climate change and the usage of resilient construction materials.

Resilience for the climate entails designing homes capable of withstanding and adapting to the various impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events, rising temperatures, rising sea-levels, and droughts. Three main aspects of resilient design are:

Adaptive Design

Resilient housing goes beyond mere structural strength; it involves a thoughtful integration of adaptive design principles. This approach prioritizes the flexibility and adaptability of building structures, ensuring they can withstand and respond to the dynamic challenges posed by climate change. Adjustable shading systems, natural ventilation, and layouts that facilitate cooling in warmer climates or improved insulation for colder regions are just a few aspects of this adaptive paradigm.

In the realm of adaptive design, flexibility is the cornerstone. Homes are conceived with adaptable floor plans, moveable partitions, and removable walls, allowing for easy modification to suit evolving needs. The utilization of modular construction, which facilitates the expansion, alteration, or replacement of components, further enhances the adaptability of these resilient homes. Integrating regenerative materials that are sourced sustainably and recyclable not only promotes long-term sustainability but also contributes to the overall resilience of the structure. Moreover, integrated systems for energy, water, and waste management enhance efficiency and adaptability.

Consider a scenario where an adaptive home boasts a rooftop garden capable of providing sustenance, shade, and insulation. Picture a wall that can effortlessly fold out to create an additional room or a balcony, showcasing the home’s ability to accommodate different functions and users over time. This narrative of adaptability extends beyond the immediate challenges of climate change, embodying a home that evolves alongside the needs of its inhabitants, creating a truly resilient and future-ready dwelling.

Flood and Storm Resistance

Focusing on the pivotal role of flood and storm resistance, this aspect takes center stage as the unsung hero. In the face of escalating climate disturbances, homes undergo a transformative evolution. Rather than succumbing to the onslaught, they elevate themselves above anticipated flood levels. This involves the integration of flood-resistant materials and storm-ready construction techniques, creating a virtually impervious shield against weather extremes. Reinforced concrete, robust siding, and steadfast foundations form the backbone, steadfastly resisting rising water levels and formidable winds. The emphasis extends beyond mere impermeability, encompassing comprehensive waterproofing and adept drainage systems to efficiently manage excess water.

Yet, the narrative transcends mere defensive measures. Flood and storm resistance act as the vigilant guardians of your home, surpassing the role of leak prevention and prioritizing your safety and possessions. Their scope extends beyond defence to include features such as escape routes and elevated structures. It is not just about recovering post-storm; it is about standing resilient in the face of adversity. In essence, resilient homes not only weather the storm but assert their ability to withstand Mother Nature’s trials and remain steadfast.

Drought Mitigation

In regions prone to recurring droughts, resilient homes emerge as the epitome of water-conscious living. Equipped with advanced water-saving technologies, these homes transcend mere functionality. Rainwater harvesters, resembling large receptacles, diligently collect raindrops, breathing vitality into the arid surroundings. Greywater recycling, a process that repurposes used household water from sinks and showers, transforms into an encore, nurturing plant life and facilitating toilet flushing. The landscaping mirrors a drought-resistant fashion exhibition, featuring native plants and xeriscaping, presenting aesthetically pleasing lawns without excessive water consumption.

Yet, the true innovation lies in departing from traditional water sources. High-efficiency devices and fixtures covertly reduce water consumption, with low-flow showerheads ensuring every drop serves a purpose. These homes not only stand out for their ecological consciousness but also prove economical, with reduced water bills as one of their many advantages. Beyond mere survival in times of water scarcity, these homes epitomize a stylish approach to maintaining cleanliness, environmental friendliness, and efficiency in water conservation.

So, design considerations can significantly impact the resilience of one’s housing situation, and it accidentally also helps you with a lower price of living as a bonus! However, resilient housing also emphasizes the importance of materials that are durable, low-carbon, locally available, and recyclable. Some key things to consider within this aspect of resilience are:

Durable and Sustainable Materials

Resilient housing prioritizes the use of materials that are not only durable but also sustainable, yet able to withstand the stresses and strains of the weather and possible natural disasters that might occur. Furthermore, choosing materials with a low environmental impact, such as recycled or locally sourced materials, contributes to long-term resilience in the face of resource scarcity and environmental degradation. Some well- and lesser-known examples of such materials are bamboo, recycled plastics and hempcrete.

Energy-Efficient Construction

To enhance climate resilience, materials with high energy efficiency are crucial. This includes well-insulated walls, roofs, and windows that can regulate indoor temperatures effectively, reducing the need for excessive heating or cooling in response to climate extremes. Earthships are a distinct building form and try to incorporate as many of these energy-efficiency measures as possible to be able to be fully live off-grid. They are placed for optimal usage of sunlight and their thick walls, sometimes filled with glass bottles for a unique colouring effect, make sure that no heat will fade away.

Fire-Resistant Construction

In areas prone to wildfires, resilient housing involves the use of fire-resistant materials, such as fire-resistant roofing, siding, and exterior finishes. This helps prevent the ignition and spread of fires and minimizes the risk of structural damage during wildfire events. They should also be able to resist combustion, limit flame propagation, and reduce smoke production. Fiber cement siding is such a material that is ideal for this kind of situation. Made of cement, sand, water, and cellulose fibres, fibre cement siding is a relatively cheap but durable and fire-safe alternative for wood.

Carbon-Neutral Options

Resilient housing also considers the carbon footprint of construction materials. Choosing materials that sequester carbon or have a low embodied carbon content contributes to climate resilience by mitigating the impact of construction on climate change. Apart from wood, which is relatively well-known and more and more used as a construction material, mycelium is an excellent carbon-neutral option. Mycelium is the root-like structure of fungi, and can grow on organic substrates, such as agricultural waste, sawdust, or straw. Depending on the medium the mycelium grows on, its characteristics can widely differ. For example, if your mycelium grows on sawdust or straw, it tends to resemble pressed sheet material that is related to building material. If your mycelium grows on cotton waste, it can be better used as an insulation material. Do you use pure mycelium materials? Then it looks a lot like plastic.

In conclusion, resilient housing integrates adaptable design principles and sustainable materials to withstand climate challenges. Homes become adaptable spaces with features like movable partitions and regenerative materials. Flood and storm resistance elevate homes above anticipated levels, offering not just defence but safety features and elevated structures.

In drought-prone regions, resilient homes embrace water-conscious living through rainwater harvesters and greywater recycling. Beyond survival, they exemplify efficiency and style in water conservation. Material choices are crucial for resilience, emphasizing durability, low carbon, local sourcing, and recyclability. From bamboo to mycelium, these materials contribute to long-term resilience. Energy-efficient construction, fire-resistant materials, and carbon-neutral options further enhance resilience. Well-insulated structures and innovative materials align with sustainability goals.
Resilient housing is a holistic, future-ready approach that safeguards inhabitants, lowers living costs, and guides us toward a more sustainable world. Exhibitions like this one can spark the interest of unaware visitors and show the wide variety of possible resilient building forms and materials. As we face climate challenges, resilient housing stands as a blueprint for a resilient and sustainable future.

Thijs van Soest
Thijs van Soest
Hi, I am Thijs! Since September 2018, I have been part of Girugten, and I am the current Chairman of the Editorial Team. I am following the MSc Real Estate Studies. My main interests are infrastructure, transport planning and real estate, but I also write about other subjects.
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