Resilient Design for Waterfront Buildings: Prevent Another Great Flood of 350

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In our radically changing world, how can buildings and infrastructure be designed to both protect the environment and withstand it?

Focusing on implementing resilient design principles to develop upcoming projects that respect and respond to the environment around them is a great way to start.

Because protecting the living is just as important as protecting nature.

It’s time to look at the big picture. We are all connected, what we do in one part of the planet impacts other parts. As designers, Forms believe that we have a responsibility to protect both our client’s interests and the environment.

Why is resilience important?


With the entire population of Kerala (and most of India) living on the coast, it’s no surprise that sea level rise is and has been one of the highest profile environmental topics.

2018 is the hottest year ever on record, we all remember vividly what happened on 9th August 2018 and on the days followed. It was the worst flood in Kerala with 350 deaths reported all over the state, after the great flood of 99 when the Periyar River flooded in the month of July 1924.

In terms of resiliency, this means that environmental changes are impacting our state right now, not just in the future.

In the face of increasingly extreme weather conditions from the flood, to drought, to intense storms, resilient design principles guide a holistic approach that protects the client investment and the environment in any location around the world.

Preparedness, responsiveness and resilience have a lot in common.

As leading architects and engineers, implementing a resilient design enables ‘Forms Builders’ to prepare our clients with facilities and infrastructure that can respond and adapt to current and future conditions and events.

Sustainable design principles are inherent in the resilient design, as minimizing additional environmental impact and protecting our limited natural resources are tenets of the practice.

How do we implement a resilient design?

Concept of a new residential block in the new location. Buildings doodled on a real meadow

Projects designed with resiliency at the focal point involve close coordination between all architectural and engineering disciplines and feature a balanced, sustainable approach to mitigating future risks.

We recommend beginning the design process with a risk assessment, which helps clients and design teams evaluate the probability of a variety of future risks and establish corresponding design priorities. The design process should incorporate both layout and material safeguards against natural and manmade events.

Evaluating environmental risks and setting up client priorities during the discovery phase forms a strong foundation for a successful resilient project. For example, critical facilities such as hospitals, police stations, emergency centres, and military installations cannot lose power. We must place emphasis on the location, protection, and set up of building systems and generators.

Other ongoing projects may have different priorities for reasons ranging from function to location, such as a drought-prone region’s emphasis on minimizing water use and protecting freshwater resources.

In other words, resilient design of properties marries the best of common sense engineering with sustainability. ‘Resilience’ wasn’t yet a buzzword in the architecture and engineering community for the longest time, and there were no standards for resilient design, yet today well-executed resilient principles should become our top priority.

The focus should be on sustainable design objectives from the beginning, with a vision to exemplify the highest and best practices of coastal design that are sustainable and practical.

According to the Resilient Design Institute (RDI), there are certain principles that need to be followed to realize a resilient building structure.

  1. Resilience transcends scales– Strategies to deal with resilience apply at scales of individual properties, communities, and bigger regional and ecosystem scales; in addition, they apply at different time scales, from immediate to long-term.
  2. Resilient systems provide for basic human needs– These consists of potable water, sanitation, energy, livable conditions (temperature and humidity), lighting, safe air, occupant health, and food; these ought to be equitably distributed.
  3. Diverse and redundant systems are inherently more resilient– Numerous diverse communities, ecosystems, economies, and social systems will respond better to interruptions or change, making them inherently more resilient. Whereas sometimes in conflict with efficiency and green building priorities, redundant systems for such requirements as electricity, water, and transportation, improve resilience.
  4. Simple, passive, and flexible systems are more resilient– Such systems are a lot more resilient than complex solutions that may break down and need ongoing maintenance. Versatile solutions are able to adapt to ever-changing conditions both in the short- and long-term.
  5. Durability strengthens resilience– Strategies that increase the durability will enhance resilience. Durability involves not solely building practices but also building design (beautiful buildings will be maintained well and last longer), infrastructure, and ecosystems.
  6. Locally available, renewable, or reclaimed resources are more resilient– Relying on copious local resources, such as solar energy, annually replenished groundwater, and local food provides bigger resilience than dependence on nonrenewable resources or remote resources from far away.
  7. Resilience anticipates interruptions and a dynamic future– Adaptation to a dynamic climate with higher temperatures, intense storms, sea level rise, flooding, drought, and conflagration is a growing necessity, whereas non-climate-related natural disasters, such as earthquakes and solar flares, and anthropogenic actions like terrorism and cyberterrorism, also demand for resilient design. Responding to change is an opportunity for a great variety of system enhancements.
  8. Find and promote resilience in nature– Natural systems have evolved to attain resilience; we are able to enhance resilience by relying on and applying lessons from nature. Schemes that protect the natural environment enhance resilience for all living systems.

  9. Social equity and community contribute to resilience– Strong, culturally diverse communities where people know, respect, and take care of each other will fare better during times of stress or disturbance. Social aspects of resilience are often as important as physical responses.
  10. Resilience is not absolute– Recognize that progressive steps can be taken and that total resilience in the face of all situations is not possible. Implement what is viable in the short term and work to achieve greater resilience in stages.

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