When most people think of construction, they think of the end product: a sturdy house, bridge, or office building. However, making a structure resilient over time is just as important as the immediate finished product. Resilience infrastructure ensures that our communities can recover quickly from disasters and disruptions. Read on to learn what you need to know about this increasingly important field.

Resilient Buildings: How We’re Building Things Stronger Than Ever

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or so it’s said—in the same way, there’s no need to repair or replace something that doesn’t break in the first place. Over time, building things to last saves valuable resources, not just in construction materials but in the minimized byproducts of material processing, the fuel used to transport them to the site, the money to pay for it all, and a whole host of other factors.

Resilient buildings start in the materials. Steel, for example, is one of the most sustainable building materials because it’s both incredibly durable and endlessly recyclable. Steel frames were the breakthrough that allowed architects to build incredibly tall buildings safely. Other sustainable construction materials such as bamboo are not only strong and long-lasting but have a low environmental impact when it comes to processing.

Next, the architectural design is engineered to use these materials in a way that makes the whole even stronger. Protecting a building from the ground up weaves resistance to damage into its metaphorical bones.

Innovations in Earthquake-Resistant Buildings

It’s incredibly difficult to out-tough an earthquake, so the most effective way to build a building to survive them is to not try to. Instead, the best earthquake-resistant building designs go with the flow, using flexible foundations, seismic dampers, and materials that can bend without breaking. Bamboo shines again here; one civil engineering company worked with local builders in an earthquake-prone region of Indonesia to design a brilliant trifecta of sustainability, affordability, and earthquake resistance by creating homes entirely out of bamboo.

Innovative Ways to Prevent Flood Damage

The big thing with flood damage is to keep the water out of the building. It sounds unhelpfully obvious, but there are a number of innovative ways that are being pioneered to do it, aside from the now-standard landscape grading, sump pumps, and flood barriers. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Prithula Prosun designed the LIFT House, which uses hollow Ferro-cement, bamboo, and recycled plastic water bottles to float on top of the flood until the waters recede. It’s not the only floating house out there, either; the Float House in New Orleans and amphibious homes in the Netherlands are just a few of the places with homes designed to rise on guideposts in case of a flood.

What Does it Mean for an Entire Infrastructure to Be Resilient?

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While resilient structures are important, infrastructure is more than just the structures it consists of; it’s a dynamic ecosystem of organizations, networks, and facilities that work together to make supporting a community possible. Building an infrastructure to be resilient doesn’t necessarily mean building it strong enough to negate damage—it means that the infrastructure system is able to “bounce back” from the damage. There are three main factors to infrastructure resilience:

Flexibility: Can local services like power generation, public transit, and fire prevention reorganize to adapt to an emergency situation? Are there systems in place to keep essential services from being trapped by red tape when they’re needed most?

Tolerance: Will the system collapse immediately, or are there systems in place to bridge the gap while the system is repaired? Are there systems in place to prevent a domino effect should one element be disrupted?

Cohesiveness: How well can different parts of the system communicate and collaborate with each other in an emergency? Are there systems in place to share resources between different parts of the infrastructure?

Picture an event like a hurricane that causes city-wide power outages. A resilient infrastructure would be flexible by having utility companies that can quickly re-prioritize to provide disaster relief, tolerant by having backup generators in essential structures like hospitals to keep things going until power can be restored, and cohesive by having city services that talk to each other to share resources and information on who needs what the most.

Why is Resilience Infrastructure Important?

Building resilience into structures and infrastructures from the start minimizes the long-term damage from events like natural disasters. Disruptions to essential services can have a cascading effect that takes years to repair. The loss of housing and other structures, the displacement of people, and the loss of lives and livelihoods can have a ripple effect that takes generations to recover from.

Building resilience into infrastructure protects against this by making sure that the systems are in place to quickly repair the damage and get essential services back up and running. This not only saves lives and livelihoods in the short term but also minimizes the long-term economic and environmental impact.

Infrastructure resilience is a vital part of creating sustainable communities. By ensuring that essential systems can weather disruptions, it becomes possible for people to continue living their lives with minimal interruption following a disaster or emergency. When evaluating potential projects, let’s keep in mind the importance of building things stronger than ever—so they can withstand whatever appears on the horizon.

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