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Resilience is hardly a new concept – but is it changing?

Entuitive has long been focused on solutions that deliver resilience within the built environment – seismic, fire, and environmental among them. We play a crucial role when iconic, high–value buildings are being designed to withstand man-made threats (whether accidental or deliberate) as well as extreme climate events. We are there to give aging structures a new lease on life.

We also have a firsthand view of how pandemic-related restrictions in the use of public spaces have impacted cities in Canada, the US, and the UK.

Many cities are now facing another surge of COVID-19 and we are asking ourselves, “What do restrictions, including physical distancing, mean for the future of our public spaces and the long-term resilience of our built environment? Especially when it seems they’ll be in place for longer than we might have thought?”

Climate change and COVID-19 have a lot in common. Both were widely anticipated by experts, yet we still seemed to have been woefully unprepared for either. Considering the impact to the global population, we are optimistic that this shared experience will lead to a deepened focus on resilience.

We asked some of our experts how their view of resilience has changed in the last six months, and where they are focusing now.

Modelling for the future

Sports venues have stopped operating since the pandemic hit, since in many cases there were no plans at either the venue level or league level to operate during a pandemic. The risk was simply too high for players and attendees alike. Now, our thinking has evolved when it comes to the design of these facilities.

“For example, to ensure the Calgary Event Centre is resilient to future events such as this, we are leveraging pedestrian modelling during the design phase to test pandemic mitigation measures and ensure the venue can still safely accommodate a reduced audience size. Examples of mitigation measures that can be modelled include specific queuing areas and requirements, reconfigurable seating or concourses, and alternatives to elevators. This will ensure that for future events, plans have already been developed and their effectiveness quantified.”

Matt Smith, M.A.Sc., M.Eng., P.Eng. Associate, Fire & Structural – Toronto

Keeping it personal

Our team has also been thinking about design and engineering from the individual perspective. The end user is always at the forefront of our thinking, but the pandemic has certainly brought the personal perspective into relief.

"Consider all of the things we didn’t think about before the pandemic. Everything from touching an elevator button to meeting friends for dinner at a restaurant – all taken for granted. Many of us have had a lifetime without a conscious thought of virus transmission. Now, germaphobe is no longer a unique or negative moniker. This heightened, deep awareness at the human level rather than the system level really appears to have impacted not only the way we think about our physical surroundings, but it has extended to the environment and social consciousness. I am encouraged by the increased focus on green projects, and on the resilience of our health and healthcare facilities. This awareness has permanently impacted the way I will think about design.”

Julien Fagnan, Ph.D., P.Eng. Principal

Prioritizing reuse

Shelter in place and work from home orders have added another dimension to our sustainability and resilience thinking. We’ve been asking more from our homes and need them to provide healthy environments as we spend increasingly more time in them.

“When I think about the intersection of climate change and COVID-19, one of the factors I think about is everyone who has had to shelter in place in our dense cities. Occupant comfort and well-being, and access to green, clean spaces are more important than ever. There is a lot of great discussion taking place in this industry regarding how the buildings of the future will be designed to address the concerns of occupant well-being. These include clean air, natural ventilation, and a high-performance envelope, and will incorporate low-carbon and low-environmental–impact building materials."

A shot of Ken Soble Tower before upgrades and during construction. The latter shot was taken in late August 2020. Images c/o Entuitive (1) and ERA Architects (2).

“But we also need to focus on the resilience of existing buildings, which we are all currently occupying. These buildings are a huge asset from an embodied carbon perspective. Retrofitting them to meet the increasingly strict energy codes to reduce operational carbon can have an added benefit of significantly improving occupant comfort, through a high-performance envelope and improved building systems. This contributes to overall building and occupant resilience.”

Emily King, Sustainable Performance Group Lead

Long-term flexibility

The pandemic showed us that we need to be ready at a moment’s notice to convert spaces into healthcare-based use. By planning now for this type of resilience, we’ll be more prepared later.

“Structural resilience is an integral part of the engineering practice comprising the ability to recover from extreme events with appropriate design for life safety. With the arrival of COVID-19, the scope of resilience should expand to include design teams’ coordination and adoption of long-term changes to space environment and usage, based on collective demands relating to extended health and safety of the occupants.”

Agha Hasan M.Eng., P.Eng., Principal

Considering occupancy

As Agha described above, resilience includes planning for how the future use and occupancy of spaces might change. To see this type of thinking in action, look no further than Calgary’s 9th Avenue Parkade & Platform Innovation Centre.

2020 continues to deliver lessons to be learned about the fragility of the relationships between the built, the natural, and our social environments. How we think about uncompromising performance has evolved. Resilience means thinking about how we can better build and take care of our environments, so that they can take care of us. Our collective commitment to being better tomorrow than we were today ensures that we will continue to listen and deliver solutions for a resilient future.


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