How design and disaster can spur climate change resilience

Extreme weather events are forcing cities to re-evaluate their climate preparedness. For densely populated coastal cities, the question has become how, not if, they will prepare for the next disaster. Rebuild by Design, a resiliency initiative that began as a response to Hurricane Sandy, is studying how we can use experiences from past crises to make our cities more resilient. 

The project has led the design of new projects such as Living Breakwaters, an initiative to construct a natural oyster reef along Staten Island’s shore to protect it from strong currents. On their path to resilience, Rebuild by Design has identified key steps to empower cities in the face of climate change. They identify the importance of moving away from a single problem, single solution mindsets and instead advocate for holistic, large scale problem-solving. For example, the reef project addresses climate protection, but also offers ecological, social, and economic benefits for the region. 

Employing designers as facilitators of resilience to take advantage of their unique vision is another technique the group uses for achieving out of the box solutions. Lastly, they stress the importance of consensus between the city, state, and federal governments. Clear communication paves the way for innovation with everyone on the same page. 

Natural disasters are tragic and growing in frequency, but their existence can teach us valuable lessons about how to prepare our cities to weather the next storm.

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