Storms are brewing for our built environment.

With growing pressure on cities around the world including rapidly rising populations, climate change, extreme weather events, economic problems and social unrest, resilience in the built environment has been identified as a crucial factor in ensuring we can survive and thrive no matter what lies ahead.

On the positive side, our cities are places of immense opportunity. They are the engine rooms of creativity and hubs of employment, as well as political centres where decisions are made. But in many ways, this has made modern cities the victims of their own success, drawing in more new residents than they can comfortably manage and affecting everyone’s quality of life. Coupled with a lack of good urban design, this makes our cities increasingly vulnerable to shocks like extreme weather events or sudden infrastructure failure.

Both Sydney and Melbourne have been selected into the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program undertaken by the Rockefeller Institute, being chosen from more than 1000 applicants.

The City of Sydney is working toward its resilience strategy, while the Resilient Melbourne team recently released the City of Melbourne’s resilience strategy. These roadmaps to resilience will define the response to pressures including skyrocketing populations and extreme weather events like floods and fires.

It’s clear that resilience needs to be embedded into our built environment at every step of the planning, building and delivery processes. But how do built environment decision makers such as architects, urban planners and builders know what resilience needs their projects may have?

To help educate and empower built environment professionals, ASBEC has released a set of resilience fact sheets designed to help those involved in planning, design, delivery and operation in the built environment build resilience principles into their decision-making. The education won’t stop there, as newly empowered professionals will then have the tools to help to begin a discussion about resilience with their stakeholders and supply chains as well.

The three fact sheets cover cities, housing and infrastructure – separate but interdependent aspects of urban design and development. They demonstrate that there are some crucial overarching principles that any professional involved in urban development needs to take into account.

Firstly, we need to be sure we’re planning for the good times as well as the bad times. Resilience measures can help to not just maintain function in times of emergency but can contribute to a higher quality of life overall. They do this by enhancing economic, environmental and social outcomes.

Secondly, we need to remember that resilience is not something that happens in a vacuum. Instead, it’s a quality that arises at system level rather than the level of individuals or specific projects. It’s of limited value to build a bushfire resistant building, for example, if its power supply and transport links are vulnerable to fire.

ASBEC has structured the fact sheets with the seven crucial attributes shared by resilient systems identified by 100RC, with prompts around each of them for professionals to consider.

Flexible – Are there alternative ways to deliver the services in question?

Reflective – Have we actually learned from previous problems? And can we measure the strength of our response to a crisis or shock?

Robust – What services are we assuming will be accessible? Are the systems designed for safety in the event of a crisis? What could climate change mean for this project?

Inclusive – Are stakeholders heard in the planning and execution process? How is the project contributing to liveability and quality of life?

Integrated – How do we collaborate with other building sector professionals and the broader community?

Resourceful – What resources could we share in a time of crisis? Do we have an organisational culture of continual improvement?

Redundant – Do we have spare capacity in order to function despite disruption? Are we planning for future changes like population growth?

If we can successfully integrate these attributes into all our urban design, we’ll be much better placed to weather the storms ahead. By working together to ensure resilience, we can keep our people and our communities safe, cohesive, fulfilled and happy, in good times and in bad.