Resilient design stands for the design of buildings, landscapes, regions, and communities responding to manmade and natural disasters as well as the long-term effects of climate change. Climate-resilient design ought to be an integral part of the planning process in the context of the project’s function, purpose, asset type, and site location, and then conclude the suitable design strategies. Climate change is already affecting every corner of Earth. The changes will become more significant and increase with additional warming, thus threatening to impede capital investments and undermine critical services if the climate-resilient design is not enforced. 

A guide to Climate Resilient Design - Sheet1
Designing Climate-Resilient Buildings_©

Building Site and Orientation

The building’s site and orientation are crucial principles of climate-resilient design to mitigate overheating and adapt to increasing temperatures. A building’s performance can be markedly impacted by where it is placed on a site. In particular, trees, buildings, or any other existing or planned elements can contribute to shading or adversely block the sun when it is necessary. Accordingly, designers must consider existing elements and the site’s relationship to the equator to optimize the building’s orientation. In this regard, the building’s longest axis should be oriented in an East-West direction, which maximizes light and allows more heat gain control. For passive solar design, openings and spaces should be oriented to achieve maximum daylight with minimized or maximized heat gain, depending on the building’s location and season. 

A guide to Climate Resilient Design - Sheet2
Passive Solar Design_©Taisei Design
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Passive Office Building in Belgium_©Neutelings Riedijk Architects

Building Configuration and Layout

The building’s configuration and layout are other aspects of climate-resilient design. Therefore, to capture solar gain to the greatest extent in cold climates, main rooms should face south in the northern hemisphere or north in the southern hemisphere. Henceforth, the opposite can be done in a hot climate to lessen the heat gained from the sun throughout the day. Besides, rooms that have few windows- namely bathrooms, storage, or utility rooms- can serve as “buffer areas” on the building’s east and west sides, which helps to retain heat out of the main living areas.

A guide to Climate Resilient Design - Sheet4
Architecture for Climate Change in Vietnam_©Cong Sinh Architects

Natural ventilation

Climate-resilient design has to take advantage of cooling breezes. In such a manner, the building’s orientation on the site should be determined to achieve the optimal positioning of windows and ideal natural ventilation. Furthermore, the prevailing wind direction should be taken into account for a climate-aware design. It is one of the best ways to attain relative coolness in habitable spaces. Forms with shorter depths facilitate cross-ventilation all over the building. Other on-site strategies to direct the wind include tactical placement of wing walls and dense vegetative cover. The airflow can be increased through the building through the strategic creation of positive and negative pressure zones to provide a cooling effect. 

A guide to Climate Resilient Design - Sheet5
Natural Ventilation and Airflow inside the New Louis Armstrong Stadium_©

Adapting to stronger Storms and Flooding

Climate-resilient design can address flooding in several ways, among them keeping away from flood-prone areas. When that is unfeasible, then raising buildings above the flood level is pivotal. In many instances, buildings can be designed to float on the water. This is referred to as amphibious design, which is an alternative flood mitigation strategy that allows a structure to float on the surface of rising water instead of giving way to inundation. Over and above, there are solutions to improve local areas through nature-based strategies such as stabilizing riverbanks, better drainage, and using permeable paving materials to enable stormwater to flow through the gaps.

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Integrated Stormwater Capture and Reuse System at Georgetown University’s Pedro Arrupe._©
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Amphibious House_©Baca Arhitects

Reduce Urban Heat-island effect

In the built environment, materials absorb heat from the sun during the day and re-radiate it back into the atmosphere, thus increasing localized temperatures and demands on cooling systems. To address this issue, climate-resilient design can decrease the Urban Heat Island effect and minimize heat pollution. Using a lighter, reflective surface can help reduce heat loading, internal building temperatures, and Urban Heat Island effect. Correspondingly, energy costs are lowered and the lifespan of HVAC equipment, rooftops, roads, and other paved surfaces is extended. Moreover, a building’s contribution to ambient temperatures can be brought down by utilizing light-coloured membranes, coatings, and pavement materials. On a related note, vegetative species can help keep buildings cool and dispense energy savings and lower temperatures.

The Model Suggests that Vegetation is Critical for Optimizing the Cooling Island Effect._©
The Model Suggests that Vegetation is Critical for Optimizing the Cooling Island Effect._©
Ecosistema Urbano Features a Solar-Powered Climatic and Digital Hub With Spaces that Can Be Climatically Adjusted to Offer Cooler Temperatures During Hotter Months._©
Ecosistema Urbano Features a Solar-Powered Climatic and Digital Hub With Spaces that Can Be Climatically Adjusted to Offer Cooler Temperatures During Hotter Months._©

Design Heat Resilient facilities

Climate-resilient design can be applied to adjust and adapt vulnerable heat components of buildings. Suggested strategies include the use of green roofs, vegetated structures, planted permeable surfaces, and shade structures. When possible, permeable pavement surfaces are favoured. It is also advisable to use light-coloured pavement materials, coatings, and sealants. Solar panels can be arranged to provide shading and generate energy. Alternative occupant thermal safety strategies should be incorporated if mechanical cooling is impractical. Some examples are passive ventilation, increased insulation, and high-performance windows and façades. 

The Al Bahr Towers’ Automated Shades Respond to the Sun's Movement_©Christian Richters
The Al Bahr Towers’ Automated Shades Respond to the Sun’s Movement_©Christian Richters

Material Selection

In the context of climate-resilient design, it is generally preferable to choose building materials from among those available locally. This significantly reduces both embodied energy and transportation energy. Sustainably produced materials should be prioritized whenever possible and appropriate. Elsa Olivetti, the associate director of the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium, asserts that material selection plays a crucial role in all facets of the new technologies required to achieve sustainability goals and address climate change. Be that as it may, there are numerous material choices, construction implementation approaches, and construction techniques that allow designers and city planners to meet the climate goals set for 2050 and be ready for the future.

Carbicrete Technology is Used to Create Carbon-Negative Concrete Masonry Units_©
Carbicrete Technology is Used to Create Carbon-Negative Concrete Masonry Units_©


  1. 2022. [online] Available at: 
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  3. Design Build Network. 2022. The coming storm: designing climate-resilient buildings. [online] Available at: 
  4. Resilient Design Institute. 2022. Resilience as Means of Mitigating Climate Change. [online] Available at: 

Najlaa believes that writing, art, and architecture enunciate one’s inner voice. Through a process of research carried out with scrupulous attention to detail, she seeks to ease curiosity with a pen, and tame the incessant questions of Why and How.