Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Susie Diamond on the new CIBSE Resilient Cities group

I was drawn to join the new CIBSE Resilient cities group through a funky mixture of curiosity and pessimism regarding the future of our urban environments. Cities have been evolving around the world for centuries at an ever-increasing pace. What they’ll look and feel like to inhabit even in just 50 years is hard to imagine. A large proportion of our current buildings are likely to remain, but interspersed with many new ones, and the way we’ll be using them could be very different. Some of this change could be really exciting, but I am troubled by the uncertainties of climate change and what the implications might be for future generations of city dwellers; how will we manage to maintain the standards of comfort we are used to, and keep using the technology we value without exacerbating climate change?

When this group coalesced we quickly realised that writing a definitive guide for CIBSE members regarding adapting and designing resilient cities was not a realistic proposition. A great deal of work is being done across many sectors to plan and future gaze on this subject, organisations such as The BRE Trust Future Cities Programme, the C40 Cities group and the Future Cities Catapult are just the tip of the iceberg. We therefore felt a more useful remit was to start collating and disseminating the information already out there that is most relevant to CIBSE members, and begin to create some thought leadership regarding what our contribution to the resilience of our cities should be.

“Resilience is the ability of assets, networks and systems to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and / or rapidly recover from a disruptive event.  In its broader sense, it is more than an ability to bounce back and recover from adversity and extends to the broader adaptive capacity gained from an understanding of the risks and uncertainties in our environment.” (Cabinet Office)

One dissemination avenue that this group will be pursuing was inspired by a book edited by Angela Brady, past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and director of Brady Mallalieu Architects Ltd, called The British Papers - Current Thinking on Sustainable City Design (RIBA Publishing). The book is a collection of 31 invited essays that cover a wide variety of topics and themes; and give diverse personal perspectives on the issues and challenges of future city design. Contributors are largely from an architecture background, and their pieces are illustrated, short and relevant. Specifically it’s also a really good read. 

So why not develop the theme and build a similar collection of essays with a more CIBSE focus? We know lots of interesting people within the industry, people with vision and passion, people with a story to share or a new technology to develop.Climate modelling has given us a good idea of where our climate is heading, but there is a wealth of opinion on how this will affect us and how our cities will adapt and evolve to suit these conditions in the late 21st and 22nd centuries. Hearing these voices would be inspiring, thought-provoking (or even enraging) and the ideas presented may be ignored and forgotten or might take hold and ultimately make their way into our thought-processes and the way we practice our work.
Without the resources (yet) to publish a physical book, we are going to invite essayists to write blog posts to publish here as a series that will build up over the coming months. If you’d be interested in contributing to this series then please get in touch with us through: