West Coast residents are familiar with the Cascadia Subduction Zone – a line from Vancouver B.C. to Northern California that will experience the greatest impact and devastation when “The Big One” strikes. Globally, chronic climate catastrophes from a warming planet, including hurricanes, flooding and fires, present a growing challenge to infrastructure and human safety.
These environmental factors, combined with aging infrastructure and an expanding population, have brought resilient design to the forefront of the built environment. Designing for resilience reduces risk and supports recovery in the advent of disaster, helping futureproof communities for an increasingly uncertain world.
At ZGF, we view resilient design as a critical sustainability component that ultimately provides a better building for its occupants, its owners, and the community. We employ early design studies to quantify different risk levels and to inform system designs that are flexible, adaptable, and inherently redundant.
Seismic design can prevent catastrophic building collapse and ensure structures behave in a predictable manner in the event of an earthquake. There are many effective structural design strategies that can be employed to help mitigate the risk from seismic events. Traditionally prescriptive approaches rely on the inherent robustness and energy absorption characteristics of concrete and steel, assuming the structure will take the beating of a seismic event and prevent collapse; while performance-based design approaches offer a higher level of risk mitigation to help shorten the predicted resiliency rebound time.
Seismic base isolation is one of the most effective strategies for controlling vibration and increasing the likelihood that the building will withstand a seismic event. At the Nintendo of America Headquarters in Redmond, Washington, ZGF-designed resilient strategies for the accompanying data center include seismic base isolation and a rotary uninterrupted power supply system. Also located in Redmond, the design for a nearby corporate campus features a two-story base isolated primary data center with the capacity to run stand-alone in a catastrophe for seven days with zero city infrastructure.
In particularly active seismic regions, designing to code may not be enough. The Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre in Vancouver, B.C., located on a fault line and serving some of the region’s most critically ill patients, was designed to exceed seismic code. The hospital can operate at post-disaster capacity for three full days by using emergency generators, while underground systems for potable water and sewage collection enable its continuous operations.
Climate Responsive Design
Climate responsive design is a critical component of our resiliency approach. Not only do we plan for current climate conditions in a given region, but the predicted and untold impacts of climate change decades from now. Strategies include planning for future energy demand, passive energy strategies should grid or municipal sources go down, renewable and clean energy applications, solar shading, and attention to building massing and orientation to optimize energy use. As a result, building occupants experience higher thermal comfort levels if the building is cut off from the energy grid during an adverse event and the building remains adaptable to changing energy demands.
On a district scale, cities and neighborhoods are grappling with how to keep citizens safe and healthy while ensuring longevity. Our recent restorative assessment for 230 acres of underdeveloped land in San Francisco’s Central SoMA neighborhood identified social, economic, transit-friendly, and environmentally sustainable strategies to support neighborhood resiliency and meet the rising housing and employment needs of the Bay Area. This Central SoMa plan implements cutting-edge and progressive performance strategies to account for disruptive forces like climate change and resource insecurity, as well as the implications of e-commerce and emerging technological developments.
For mission-critical facilities, including government and healthcare buildings, it is imperative to plan for extended durations of infrastructure interruption. Strategies such as utility redundancy add an increased level of protection against structural collapse, while net zero and net positive strategies allow operations to continue even when the grid is unavailable.
The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center tested—and passed—the LEED pilot credit for Passive Survivability and Functionality During Emergencies. With its focus on Passive House, net zero, and climate responsive elements, the project was energy modeled for an entire year without any energy inputs – and it maintained the required and expanded comfort zone, even with peak winter temperatures dipping below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Notably, the project incorporates operable windows, allowing occupants to maintain comfort and provide ventilation during the warmer months. The fully passive Innovation Center features a PV system with full battery backup, a lightning protection system, a greywater and rainwater collection system, and is sited well above the 500-year flood plain.
To read more about our approach to resilient design, visit the links below.