Thursday, April 21, 2011

How our designs must adapt to a hotter world

Fastcodesign: …Envisioning what the climate will be like 50, 75, or 150 years out is the first step in adaptation planning. We then need to ask: Which activities will be affected and how? What policies will help us cope with predicted change in climate? What opportunities will emerge? How will the design of our cities interface with our new climate? We need to alleviate predicted negative impacts through systems-thinking and build resilience into the system.

Adaptation is more than a good idea. It is a must -- especially when considering that many populations that are most affected by climate change tend to have fewer resources with which to cope with changes -- necessitating the design of adaptable communities as soon as possible. In other words, moving to higher ground is not as easy as it sounds.

…The better we plan now, the easier it will be for us to sustain and prosper in the future. This new way of thinking spans the design, policy, and even global market trends for businesses. While it may not be a national priority at the moment, many local governments are already feeling the impact of these changes and preparing themselves to adapt to continued change in the future through integration with the development of long-range plans. For example, the Coast Guard has moved lighthouses and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority elevated a water treatment facility -- both projects stemming from predicted sea level rise and impact on infrastructure.

Adaptation should not be considered a plan in lieu of reducing emissions, but as a parallel effort. The good news is that many strategies exist to help communities and our designs adapt and reduce emissions, by focusing on “using less” and working within real world constraints on natural resources and energy security. For example, if our plumbing fixtures use less water, then we are not as greatly affected by drought and if we move toward distributed renewable energy, then we will be less threatened by energy distribution interruptions…

Shot of Andy Goldsworthy's Storm King Wall by Brian Thomas, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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