An Investment in Preparedness

In my inaugural column, "Architects Paving the Way for the Resilient Cities of the Future," (June 24), I wrote about an effort called the National Resilience Initiative (NRI). This is an undertaking by the Architects Foundation to create a network of design studios throughout the country dedicated to informing and educating local stakeholders about resilient building and planning practices - all designed to help local communities prepare for the next disaster, whether natural or systemic.

This week, at the Clinton Global Initiative's (CGI) Annual meeting in New York, we are unveiling our first annual report: In Flux: Community Design for Change, Chance and Opportunity, a compendium of NRI activities for the past year. This report includes the work of our three charter members: the New Jersey Institute of Technology's Center for Resilient Design; the University of Arkansas' Community Design Center at the Fay Jones School of Architecture; and Mississippi State University's Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, located in Biloxi, Mississippi. Our ultimate goal is for the NRI to be part of a growing system of resilience enterprises taking aim at the many challenges communities face at this important juncture in human history. We intend for the NRI's design-thinking, problem-solving and networking between studios and local, regional, federal and international stake-holders to offer a fresh and collaborative model for mitigating social and disaster-related risks across the globe.

At CGI, we are mounting a major effort to move the NRI forward. Three additional design studios will be selected in 2016 for the West Coast, the Upper Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions - selected via a national search process that will kick off later this year. We intend for the network of Regional Resilience Design Studios to extend across all 10 standard federal regions. In 36 months, our intention is to have approximately 20 interconnected regional resilience design studios as part of the largest network of resilient design spanning across multiple sectors, industries and communities.

Our goals for each local resilient design studio will be as follows:

  • Become widely recognized as a central, go-to community resource on resilience activities and design solutions.
  • Elevate and inform architectural practice and diffuse resilience strategies and design solutions.
  • Provide research, technical information and project case studies to municipal leaders that showcase the role of design and the built environment in community resilience to help move their communities from awareness to action.
  • Offer architects, lands use planners, government officials and funders opportunities to work directly with communities to develop, refine and implement resilience strategies.
  • Build an archive of community demonstration projects to benefit other communities at the regional, national and global scale.
  • Have a dedicated Studio Director manage each design studio's projects and staff. The studio director will be responsible for key regional relationships and securing studio/project funding. Design studios will retain support from university professors, administrators and students for the delivery of design, research and training.

But how do we get there from here?

We aim to secure investments from corporate partners and foundations to support the launch of the three additional studios as well as key training, fellowship and construction programs. In three years, our goal is for communities to appreciate the importance of resilient design approaches, and for the studios to serve as a conduit providing resilient design services and information to improve and strengthen their response to weather disasters and systemic challenges, as well as effects of climate change.

Given the tremendous loss and disruption caused by increasingly more frequent natural disasters of all types, we're confident that the NRI is an investment with a big payback.

Sherry-Lee Bloodworth-Botop is Executive Director of the Architects Foundation.