Resilient design

Issue 25 Words: Jacinta Cleary Photography: Alexei Levedev

While households have rallied to reduce their carbon footprint, how can we make our homes resilient to the effects of climate change?


Resilience can be interpreted many ways, but in a bricks-and-mortar sense it’s a building that’s not permanently damaged by the extremes of Mother Nature. More broadly it’s a home that stays warm when the electricity grid fails or a community that is empowered to respond to a disaster.

Architect Dr Paul Downton says that new homes should be designed to meet worst case climate scenarios. “I think if you’re not designing for the year 2050 at least, you’re not serious, and if you look at the projections for 2050, tweaking the standard house a bit isn’t going to produce the level of resilience that we’re going to need.”

So what wild weather can we expect as the century progresses? The level of risk depends on where you live, but Australia’s Climate Council points to more heat waves and freakish deluge-or-drought rainfall patterns, leading to more severe and frequent bushfires and floods. Cyclones are likely to become more intense although less regular. Meanwhile, a projected 1.1 metre sea-level rise this century puts up to 247,600 houses in Australia at risk from flooding due to increased storm surges.

Some organisations and individuals have launched much-needed initiatives in response.

Green Cross Australia’s Harden Up: Protecting Queensland project was established after the 2011 Queensland floods when three-quarters of the state was declared a disaster zone. The disaster-resilience portal includes a database of 3000 severe weather events that have occurred since the 1850s to help householders establish what extremes are likely to strike their area, and to act on this risk through a personal resilience plan. The campaign’s emphasis is on resilience through sustainability.

Architect Mark Thomson helped retrofit a two-storey brick-veneer home that had been severely flooded during the Brisbane floods in 2011 and says a new approach is needed to make homes more robust. “Guttering systems, box gutters and low-pitched roofs require rethinking to withstand increased storm activity and severity. Materials need more flexible joints for greater expansion and contraction resulting from greater and more rapid extremes in temperature.”

For Dr Downton, who designed Adelaide’s urban village Christie Walk, resilient design is also about where we live and who we live with. He says that higher density living will facilitate more resilient communities. “We should be building villages and communities rather than subdivisions. If all the wheels fall off and things go wrong, if you facilitate community I think you’re building resilience.


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Cover of Issue 25
You can read more about Resilient design in Issue 25 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Sanctuary: modern green homes is Australia’s premier magazine dedicated to sustainable home design. More...

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Reducing your lawn area is the best way to save water as lawns can account for up to 90 per cent of water used in gardens.

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