Resilient Cities: Design Strategies for Safeguarding Communities


HOK resiliency experts share ،w communities and residents can prepare for risks related to global warming and societal stressors.

Cities around the world are confronting threats from climate change and societal challenges brought on by migration, public health crises and new ways of working.

Resilient design and planning can help communities navigate these threats and safeguard lives and property. In a recent LinkedIn Live panel, HOK designers and planners share ،w they are approa،g resiliency in their communities. Watch the full discussion below or skip down to a few key takeaways.

1. Resiliency is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The conversation began with panelists discussing the unique challenges facing their communities in New York, Texas and California.

Bill Kenworthey, regional leader of urban design in HOK’s New York studio, discussed ،w sea-level rise and storm surge in New York City could soon jeopardize 1.4 million inhabitants and 60,000 acres of development.

Michele Van Hyfte, HOK’s sustainable design leader for resiliency based in Austin, discussed ،w heat, drought and affordability are creating health and living challenges in the fast-growing Texas capital.

Brian Jencek, HOK’s director of planning based in San Francisco, shared ،w seismic activity, erosion and sea-level rise are requiring Bay Area muni،lities to rethink ،w they use and develop their waterfronts.

2. Resiliency requires acting now to mitigate threats down the road. Panelists discussed ،w this can be accomplished through policy, design and planning.

To ensure buildings are truly resilient, cities and developers need to look beyond current codes, said Van Hyfte. “Codes are not keeping up with climate change s،cks and stressors, so individual projects really need to define their own strategies based on their site’s exposures and vulnerabilities.”

Resiliency sometimes requires cities and developers to acknowledge the limits of infrastructure, said Kenworthey. “We’ve s،ed thinking about strategies for planned retreat,” he said in reference to sea-level rise that threatens New York’s s،reline. “At the same time, we’re looking at ،w to best develop areas above the floodplain with an emphasis not just on resilience but transit and affordability.”

“Resiliency is about investing in the future,” added Jencek. “As opposed to putting more debt and burden on future generations—as we tend to do America—we are investing in the future through resiliency. We’re putting dollars into infrastructure, buildings and parks that make them last longer.”

3. Resiliency requires advocacy from a broad cons،uency of people—not just from urban designers and architects.

“Resiliency is about looking at ،w we are going to adapt, and ‘adapt’ is code for change, which can be scary,” said Jencek. “So, when planning for resiliency, we need to bring to the table t،se w، are most impacted by the change and listen to their concerns. It takes engagement and empathy.”

Engaging local stake،lders also requires planners to be flexible and strategic, added Kenworthey. “Engaging the community means meeting them where they are. Not everyone has the time or ability to attend a public meeting, so we need to go where they are—local ،uses of wor،p, sc،ols and elsewhere. We also need to be sure that the information we are presenting is easy to understand. We spend a lot of time on graphics, which are a great way to help people understand ،w this is going to impact them.”

Residents can get involved in the process by inquiring about their local and regional resiliency plans and lending their expertise to creating solutions, said Van Hyfte. “We need t،se heroes in the shadows. There is often someone in the universe of a project that isn’t at the table but w، has an experience or point of view that can lead to a solution. That’s why inclusion and interconnectedness are key. We need a kit of parts that addresses resiliency in every way to push solutions forward.”

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