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Green buildings, resilience ability and the challenge of disaster risk

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Abstract

An ever increasing trend in the occurrence of natural disasters is expected that climate change will aggravate the devastating impacts of disasters. As there is growing evidence of the intensity and frequency of climate related extreme events, it is therefore critical that disasters be seen through the lens of reducing risk of and building resilience to disasters, rather than just a response to a one-off disaster event. Current attention given to climate change and its impact on social and economic development is also contributing to accelerating the recognition that natural disasters are a critical factor affecting health, safety and productivity of the building occupants. Hence, it is important to develop and enforce safe built environment to make occupants more resilient, and to protect lives and property in times of disaster. Further, disaster risk due to changing climate presents a challenge to the planners and designers of the built environment to make them high resilient for disasters because, inappropriate construction puts millions lives and properties needlessly in danger. Therefore, this paper is mainly focused on evaluating the resilience ability of green buildings to facing the challenge of disaster risk due to uncertain climatic changes. In considering the ways to improve resilience ability of buildings, green building concept has gaining momentum in minds of planners and designers of built environment, as green buildings are generally designed and built more carefully. According to the reviewed research papers, the resilience ability of green buildings may achieve by two ways; reducing the initial damage to building systems and infrastructure and using passive design principles to increase building resilience. Hence, there are many passive design features existed in green buildings can be identified as renewable energy, natural ventilation, rain water harvesting, day lighting etc. These passive design principles and other adaptive strategies can be applied to ensure the high resilience ability.
Green buildings, resilience ability and the challenge
of disaster risk
Harshini Mallawarachchi,
Department of Building Economics, University of Moratuwa
(email: hmallawarachchi@gmail.com)
Lalith De Silva,
Department of Building Economics, University of Moratuwa
(email: lalith.consultantarch@hotmail.com)
Rameez Rameezedeen
School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia
(email: Rameez.Rameezdeen@unisa.edu.au)
Abstract
An ever increasing trend in the occurrence of natural disasters is expected that climate change
will aggravate the devastating impacts of disasters. As there is growing evidence of the
intensity and frequency of climate related extreme events, it is therefore critical that disasters
be seen through the lens of reducing risk of and building resilience to disasters, rather than just
a response to a one-off disaster event. Current attention given to climate change and its impact
on social and economic development is also contributing to accelerating the recognition that
natural disasters are a critical factor affecting health, safety and productivity of the building
occupants.
Hence, it is important to develop and enforce safe built environment to make occupants more
resilient, and to protect lives and property in times of disaster. Further, disaster risk due to
changing climate presents a challenge to the planners and designers of the built environment to
make them high resilient for disasters because, inappropriate construction puts millions lives
and properties needlessly in danger. Therefore, this paper is mainly focused on evaluating the
resilience ability of green buildings to facing the challenge of disaster risk due to uncertain
climatic changes. In considering the ways to improve resilience ability of buildings, green
building concept has gaining momentum in minds of planners and designers of built
environment, as green buildings are generally designed and built more carefully. According to
the reviewed research papers, the resilience ability of green buildings may achieve by two
ways; reducing the initial damage to building systems and infrastructure and using passive
design principles to increase building resilience. Hence, there are many passive design features
existed in green buildings can be identified as renewable energy, natural ventilation, rain water
harvesting, day lighting etc. These passive design principles and other adaptive strategies can
be applied to ensure the high resilience ability.
Keywords: Green Building, Building resilience, Disaster risk, Passive design
1. Introduction
An ever increasing trend in the occurrence of natural disasters is expected that climate change
will aggravate the devastating impacts of disasters. Environmental degradation and climate
change contribute to the increasing occurrence of disasters linked to natural hazards. No
country is immune, regardless of the level of economic and social development. Every year
millions of people are affected by droughts, floods, landslides, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis,
wild land fires, and other hazards. Increased population densities, growing mega-cities,
environmental degradation, and the impact of Climate Change adding to poverty, make the
impact of natural hazards worse “(DEPECHO, 2009). In the past few years, natural disasters
have struck with significant impact in all parts of the world, from the Indian Ocean tsunami to
earthquakes in Iran and South Asia, from cyclones in Burma, the Caribbean and the Pacific to
heavy flooding, mudflows and landslides in several parts of Asia and Latin America. Hundreds
of thousands of people lose their lives and millions their livelihood, due to disasters caused by
natural hazards (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, 2006).
As there is growing evidence of the intensity and frequency of such climate related extreme
events, it is therefore critical that disasters be seen through the lens of reducing risk of and
building resilience to disasters, rather than just a response to a one-off disaster event. Current
attention given to climate change and its impact on social and economic development is also
contributing to accelerating the recognition that natural disasters are a critical factor affecting
health, safety and productivity of the building occupants (Lisa, 2010). Hence, it is important to
develop and enforce safe built environment to make occupants more resilient, and to protect
lives and property in times of disaster. Further, disaster risk due to changing climate presents a
challenge to the planners and designers of the built environment to make them high resilient for
disasters because, inappropriate construction puts millions lives and properties needlessly in
danger. In order to ensure that any constructions and developments gain are sustainable, it is
important that disaster risk reduction and resilience building be integrated at all levels through
integrated sustainable development planning across sectors, including but not limited to public
infrastructure investments, sustainable agriculture, health, education and sustainable
urbanization (UNCSD Secretariat , 2012). Many of organizations involved in designing and
operating the built environment have been promoting the environmental, economic and social
benefits of more efficient and sustainable or green buildings for decades (Klien et al, 2003).
Such green design and operational principles that lead to greater sustainability can also lead to
greater resilience. Therefore, this paper was aimed to evaluate the resilience ability of green
buildings compared to traditional buildings by identifying building resilient features existed in
green buildings for facing the challenge of disaster risk.
2. Methodology
Key research papers relating to the building resilience, disasters and green buildings were
reviewed in order to identify building resilience design features existed in green buildings
compared to traditional buildings.
3. Literature review
3.1 Disaster risk
It is acknowledged that the exposure to natural hazards and climate changes is not uniformly
distributed across the world: 80% of all the world natural disasters are concentrated in Asia,
especially climate-related events like floods, cyclones and draughts. To the contrary, it is often
unrecognised or unclear that mismanagement of resources, uncontrolled human activities and
exposure to natural threats are strongly interrelated. Disasters are more likely to occur in
overexploited areas, where the effects of natural hazards are amplified by the increased
vulnerability of local ecosystems (Lisa, 2010). Climate change makes extreme weather events
more likely than before. The average temperature of the globe has already increased by 0.8 C°
since records began to be taken just over 130 years ago. Observational data on glaciers all over
the world records them noticeably decreasing in volume since at least the 1960s. Arctic summer
sea ice this year is at record low levels and has been consistently below average every year for
the last six years, signalling the potential for more damaging weather events. Heat waves,
droughts, floods, and violent storms could become much more common in the decades to come,
making disaster risk reduction around such events an even more urgent priority (Clark, 2012).
Just as disasters can disrupt the process of development, so too can development choices
contribute to or exacerbate the impact of disasters. In many countries, the building of physical
infrastructure, such as transport and energy systems and commercial and residential buildings,
has not taken into account disaster risks (Lisa, 2010).
Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic
efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced
exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land
and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events. In order to ensure that any
development gains are sustainable, it is important that disaster risk reduction and resilience
building be integrated at all levels through integrated sustainable development planning across
sectors, including but not limited to public infrastructure investments, sustainable agriculture,
health, education and sustainable urbanization (UNCSD Secretariat, 2012).
3.2 Disaster risk reduction and building resilience
With the emergence of this new thinking on resilience related to disasters, it is now a good time
to reflect on the concept and assess what has recently been said in the literature. Resilience is
the ability of a system to recover from a severe shock. Disaster risk and resilience1 received
insufficient emphasis in the original Millennium Development Goal agenda, despite the
relationship between disasters and development. According to the DFID Approach Paper
(2011), resilience is the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist,
absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient
manner.
3.3 Green buildings
Green Building (GB) has emerged as a new building philosophy, encouraging the use of more
environmentally friendly materials, and implementation of techniques to save resources and
specially the improvement of indoor environmental quality, among others (Thormark, 2006
cited Lacouture et al., 2008). Henceforth, GB practices are perceived by many construction
industry professionals to be part of the solution to problems regarding indoor environment of
buildings (Hashim et al., 2011). Green, or sustainable building, is the practice of creating and
using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation,
maintenance and demolition (US Green Building Council, 2007; EPA GB, 2008 cited Edwin et
al., 2009). It offers an opportunity to create environmentally efficient buildings by using an
integrated approach of design so that the negative impact of building on the environment and
occupants is reduced (Ali et al., 2009 cited Hikmat et al., 2009).
As a study by Cheng (2007) mentioned that the concept of GB has applied in most of the
countries as to reduce the impact of buildings on environment and human health. As Cheng
further stated that Green Building” is called “Environmental Co-Habitual Architecture” in
Japan, “Ecological Building” or “Sustainable Building” in Europe and “Green Building in
North American countries. Many fashionable terms such as “Green consumption”, “Green
living”, “Green illumination” have been broadly used. In Taiwan, currently, “Green” has been
used as a symbol of environmental protection in the country. According to studies by Lacouture
et al. (2008) and Karkanias et al. (2010), other benefits of bioclimatic or green buildings
include lower energy and operational costs, market advantages for the building developer,
higher indoor environmental quality and therefore living quality or higher productivity and
lower long-term exposure to environmental or health endangering factors thus, it reduces health
cost. Consequently, a recent trend toward increased concern about the impacts of buildings on
the larger environment has led many building design professionals to design so-called
“sustainable architecture” or “green buildings” (Levin, 1995).
4. Resilience ability of green buildings discussion
In considering the ways to improve resilience ability of buildings, green building concept has
gaining momentum in minds of planners and designers of built environment, as green buildings
are generally designed and built more carefully. It turns out that efficiency-focused features
may also help green buildings and their occupants ride out long-term climate shifts and even
give an edge in short-term disasters, by staying dry in floods and well sealed during high winds.
Even though green building practice has focused primarily on lessening the built environments’
contribution to climate change through the reduction of green house gas emissions, it shows
great resilience ability compared to conventional buildings as it includes both mitigation and
adaption strategies passive design principles to shape the built environment in a way that is
both responsive and resilient to future climate extremes.
The resilience ability of green buildings may achieve by two ways;
I. Reducing the initial damage to building systems and infrastructure
II. Using passive design principles to increase building resilience
4.1 Reduce the initial damage to building systems and infrastructure
Major electrical and mechanical equipment that provides critical services should be installed in
locations unlikely to be flooded. This can be accomplished by installing equipment above
ground level or providing underground storm water holding areas or diversion paths. Burying
electrical lines underground is another practice to increase reliability and robustness. These
practices need to make their way into building codes, as they are much more practical and cost-
effective to implement during initial construction or reconstruction.
4.2 Passive design principles
Passive design is the technique of placing, orienting, and massing a building to optimize the use
of the sun and climate to provide natural lighting, heating, and ventilation. Passive approaches
to providing electrical power, such as renewable energy, and passive building designs can
increase building resiliency. Passive design principles including building envelope, natural
ventilation, shading, and water capture and storage allow buildings to provide adequate comfort
and water without requiring a significant energy supply. When severe storms or other events are
accompanied by excessively hot or cold weather, providing comfortable and safe environments
using minimal energy resources is highly desirable. An additional benefit is that buildings
designed using passive principles will be significantly more energy efficient and have a lower
environmental impact during normal day-to-day operation.
In green buildings there are many building resilient design features can be identified compared
to the traditional buildings. Those design principles applied in green building designs ultimately
lead to enhance the resilience ability of buildings. In order to identify such design parameters,
fivegreen assessment tools were evaluated namely Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design (LEED), Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
(BREEAM), Green Star, Green Mark and GREENSL® rating system (Boonstra and Pettersen,
2003; McKay, 2007).
Table 1: Building resilient features in green buildings
LEED
BREEAM
Green Star
Green Mark
GREENSL®
Landscape
Management
External
lighting
Day lighting
Reducing the
Building
Envelope
Environmental
management
plan
building
exterior
management
plan
Storm water
management
Heat Island
Reduction
Reducing
the use of
portable
water
On-site and
off-site
renewable
energy
(passive
solar, wind,
day lighting,
natural
ventilation)
Free cooling
Renewable
and low
emission
energy
Zero or low
carbon
techniques
Rain water
harvesting
Building
orientation
Site location-
less
probability of
having flood
Sustainable
drainage
techniques
use of
portable
water
Reducing
demand of
portable
water
supplies and
infrastructure
Natural
ventilation
On-site
renewable
energy
On site rain
water
collection
Use of
recycled
water
Use of
materials
Natural
Ventilation
Day lighting
Renewable
energy
Water
irrigation
and
landscaping
Greenery
provision
Storm water
management
plan
Erosion and
sedimentation
control
Storm water
design
Heat Island
reduction
Reducing the
use of portable
water
Treated waste
water
Rain water
harvesting
Renewable
energy
Natural
Ventilation
Day lighting
According to the Table 1, many passive design principle of green buildings can be identified
which can be applied to ensure the resilience ability of green buildings compared to traditional
buildings. Renewable energy systems, rain water harvesting and other passive designs on
building envelope, natural ventilation, shading, and water capture and storage allow buildings
to provide adequate comfort and water without requiring a significant energy supply.
5. Conclusions
As there is growing evidence of the intensity and frequency of climate related extreme events, it
is therefore critical that disasters be seen through the lens of reducing risk of and building
resilience to disasters, rather than just a response to a one-off disaster event. natural disasters
are a critical factor affecting health, safety and productivity of the building occupants. Hence, it
is important to develop and enforce safe built environment to make occupants more resilient,
and to protect lives and property in times of disaster. In considering the ways to improve
resilience ability of buildings, green building concept has gaining momentum in minds of
planners and designers of built environment, as green buildings are generally designed and built
more carefully. The resilience ability of green buildings may achieve by two ways; reducing the
initial damage to building systems and infrastructure and using passive design principles to
increase building resilience. Hence, there are many passive design features existed in green
buildings can be identified as renewable energy, natural ventilation, rain water harvesting, day
lighting etc which can be applied to enhance the resilience ability of green buildings compared
to traditional buildings.
Acknowledgement
The authors acknowledge assistance rendered by Head of Department, senior lecturers,
lecturers and other staff members of Department of Building Economics, University of
Moratuwa. Researchers express their gratitude to all practitioners in the industry who
contributed to this study with many helpful comments.
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Green building (GB) is part of the concept of promoting sustainability. Although GB and the concept of sustainability are well studied for environmental concerns, their business rationale and related social concerns have not been fully explored or widely accepted by the parties involved in the building sector. In this study, the situation of GB market in relation to the general building market is reviewed and the business rationales of stakeholders to invest in the GB market have been investigated from the perspective of building designers. In addition, the factors that enhance the popularity of GB have been explored and the obstacles that hinder its market have been examined. The data are collected by a questionnaire survey covering building designers in Hong Kong and Singapore, the cities that are categorized as economically developed cities in Asia. After data analysis of the survey, this paper presents the findings of the business reasons for stakeholders to be involved in GB, the most favorable conditions required to promote GB business and the important obstacles that hinder its popularity. Based on the findings, recommendations and policy implications are tendered.
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