Climate change provides substantial challenges to our built environment, particularly when extreme weather events occur. We see effects everywhere, including warming temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent and powerful storms.  In response, architects and designers are embracing the idea of resilient design, which comprises modifying structures to withstand and adapt to these challenges (Ulm). Resilient design is critical in guaranteeing the safety, functionality, and sustainability of our built environment, from vernacular adaptations anchored in local traditions to modern techniques and technologies. 

Passive Design and Building Orientation

Strengthening the ability of structures and surrounding to resist and recover from catastrophic weather disasters requires resilient design. It includes a variety of tactics, from passive design methods to advanced technologies. Passive design techniques harness natural elements to regulate temperature and maximise energy efficiency. Buildings should be oriented properly to maximise natural lighting, minimise solar heat gain, and encourage natural ventilation (“Location and orientation for passive heating and cooling”). Overhangs and louvres are examples of shading structures that offer protection from excessive heat while preserving a comfortable indoor climate.

BedZED’s building orientation was carefully thought out to optimise sun gain and reduce heat loss. The majority of the residential apartments face south, allowing them to get the most sunlight possible throughout the day. The southern façade’s large windows and transparent spaces allow for abundant daylight penetration, decreasing the need for artificial lighting and improving the resident’s general well-being. The BedZED buildings have airtight, highly insulated shells to maximize energy efficiency while reducing heat transfer and assuring greater thermal performance. Smaller windows are used on the north-facing façade, which receives less direct sunshine, to reduce heat loss during the winter months (Freewan). 

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BedZed_©Architecture Review
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BedZed Sectional Details_©Architecture Review

Building Envelope

A resilient building envelope is essential for withstanding the impacts of extreme weather events and ensuring energy efficiency. It is essential for reducing heat transfer, preventing moisture ingress, and maintaining a comfortable indoor environment. Innovative insulating materials with high thermal resistance are essential for raising energy efficiency and lowering heat transmission. For instance, spray foam insulation, such as closed-cell polyurethane foam, has great insulating qualities and aids in building an airtight barrier. Another illustration is mineral wool insulation, which provides outstanding thermal and acoustic performance and is manufactured from recyclable resources. Weather-resistant barriers, such as vapour-permeable membranes or house wraps, are essential components of a durable building envelope. These barriers keep moisture out while enabling water vapour to escape, assuring the structure’s stability and preventing mould formation. Tyvek® and Zip System® sheathing are examples of weather-resistant barriers.

The building envelope of Manitoba Hydro Place utilises high-performance insulation materials to minimise heat transfer. It has low-emissivity (Low-E) double-glazed windows that provide great thermal insulation and reduces energy loss through the facade. The Low-E coating on the glass helps to reflect heat back into the structure during chilly winters and limits solar heat gain throughout the summer, keeping internal temperatures reasonable (“Manitoba Hydro Place”).

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Manitoba Hydro Place_©TransSolar
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Manitoba Hydro Place_©TransSolar

Sustainable Materials and Techniques

Flexible building materials and methods have been used in vernacular design in earthquake-prone areas. Construction methods that can withstand the seismic forces brought on by earthquakes have been developed in these areas. For instance, joinery systems are used in traditional Japanese residences and pagodas to enable the buildings to sway during earthquakes. This innovative method lowers the likelihood of collapse and guarantees the security of the occupants (Steinbrugge). These structures are capable of effectively absorbing and dissipating the energy produced by seismic activity because flexible features were incorporated into their design and construction.

The use of adobe construction in earthquake-prone regions, such as sections of Latin America and the Middle East, is another famous example of vernacular adaption. Clay, sand, and organic substances make up the substance known as adobe. It combines strength and flexibility, making it perfect for withstanding earthquake-shaking forces. The building may move and deform thanks to Adobe’s pliable nature without collapsing, safeguarding the people and possessions inside. Beyond areas that are vulnerable to earthquakes, vernacular architecture also demonstrates clever passive cooling techniques to deal with the difficulties of hot and arid climates. Wind-catching towers, or “badgirs,” are a common element in Iranian architecture. These towers are placed in such a way as to trap and guide prevailing winds into the building, resulting in natural ventilation and cooling (“Wind tower natural cooling system in Iranian traditional architecture”). The ingenious design maximises airflow while minimising heat gain, ensuring comfortable indoor conditions even in scorching temperatures.

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Wind catcher_©Green Prophet

Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure and landscape design are essential components of the resilient architecture. Using green spaces like green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavements, architects and designers may control stormwater runoff, lessen the impact of the heat island, and encourage biodiversity. These environmentally friendly techniques not only control stormwater and lessen the effects of heat islands, but they also raise biodiversity, improve water quality, and produce sustainable and aesthetically pleasing landscapes.

The Amazon Spheres in Seattle demonstrate the integration of green infrastructure with a variety of plant species housed in these glass domes creating a lively and engrossing atmosphere for Amazon employees. The enormous greenery and living plant walls inside the Spheres improve indoor air quality, lower carbon dioxide levels, and increase occupant well-being and productivity. Additionally, the plants serve as organic air purifiers and add to the metropolitan landscape’s general biodiversity (“Bringing The Spheres’ green walls to Life”).  

Amazon Spheres_©BDC Network


Resilient design is a critical technique for adapting buildings to the challenges posed by climate change and extreme weather events. Using passive design principles, sustainable materials, flood-resistant features, and modern technology, architects and designers may develop buildings that are more robust, sustainable, and capable of withstanding and recovering from these difficulties. Embracing resilient design is critical not only for maintaining our infrastructure but also for assuring community safety and well-being in the face of a fast-changing environment.

Works Cited

“Bringing The Spheres’ green walls to life.” About Amazon, 5 January 2018, Accessed 17 July 2023.

Freewan, Ahmed AY. “Advances in Passive Cooling Design: An Integrated Design Approach.” IntechOpen, Accessed 17 July 2023.

“Location and orientation for passive heating and cooling.”, 16 March 2022, Accessed 17 July 2023.

“Manitoba Hydro Place.” World Construction Network, 24 August 2010, Accessed 17 July 2023.

Steinbrugge, KV. “Earthquake-Resistant Design Concepts.” FEMA, Accessed 17 July 2023.

Ulm, Franz. “Climate-Resilient Infrastructure | MIT Climate Portal.” MIT Climate Portal, 20 September 2021, Accessed 17 July 2023.

“Wind tower natural cooling system in Iranian traditional architecture.” ResearchGate, Accessed 17 July 2023.


Ruchi Khakurel, a fresh graduate architect, is driven to create an impact through her ideas and perception. She believes spaces as powerful storytellers that reflect the essence of people who inhabit them and seeks platforms that connect aspiring minds that comforts the soul in this impeccable field of creating art.