Housing Issue | Making Homes Resilient
Resilience. What is it? And why does it matter?
The term, as textbook definitions go, refers to the ability of a system to withstand or recover from adversity. In the context of homes and cities, we think about new kinds of adversity. Hyper-urbanisation strains our wellness; climate change sends us extreme weather; once-abundant energy and water are now scarce or compromised.
We started planning this issue with the intent of revisiting the Green homes in Asia. We got a little more than we bargained for. In the pages ahead you will find some projects with Green credentials. You will also find projects that look like prototypes or test-beds. These tell the story of resilience.
Keio Co-Evolving House in Japan is all about speed and adaptability of form, plus deep reliance on renewables and recycled materials. The Shunya Net Zero-Energy Home in India looks like a showroom of what middle-class living might be, were it to be powered by the sun. The Blooming Bamboo Home and BES Pavilion in Vietnam speak of new ways to use old methods and materials, with the intent of achieving self-sufficiency. The Hut to Hut project in India, like the one in Vietnam, shows how something that looks vernacular can be new and forward thinking. Lastly, the Post-disaster Housing in NYC and Japan gives us a perspective on rebuilding lives.
Patrick Bingham-Hall’s essay on sociable architecture reminds us that the home, in the way that shared space is crafted, is really about community. Miriel Ko looks at the phenomena of shrinking homes and asks how less can be more. Small personal space and too little shared space are adversities brought on by urban density. And density, the way that it is done today, is a problem of our making.
The underlying assumption here—if we could only fix our cities—is put into a tailspin by our guest for the FuturArc Interview, Robert Engelman, Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. He argues that it’s not that we have more people in cities; it’s that we have more people. With more mouths to feed and a culture of seeking more when we have enough, we have a disaster in the making. How we choose to design really takes third place to, first, how we redistribute wealth from the haves to the have-nots and, second, how we cut back on consumption and GDP growth. Almost no country in the world does this. Engelman points to a couple of examples that come close but he admits they are not perfect role models.
And so until we find a pathway for managing current trajectories of growth, the pragmatist in us says that we must look to resilience through design. How can we not? Resilience is not an option. It is the only option. We hope this issue gives you food for thought.