| Quicksandala via Morguefile

Resilient design guide presents flood control strategies

As economists blame a dip in the housing market on the recent flooding in the south, the American Society of Landscape Architects released a Resilient Design Guide on Tuesday to tackle flooding and other disruptive events.

The guide presents examples of green infrastructure or multi-layered approaches that can help minimize the impact of natural disasters on existing structures. 

“We tend to like things to be very stable, but for the most part ecological systems are not stable,” said Nina-Marie Lister, graduate program director and associate professor at Ryerson University School of Urban and Regional Planning. “Those patterns are changing within your lifetime. That's disturbing, it's also expensive,” Lister said.

Flooding, drought, forest fires and other disruptive events can have an impact that ripples out to affect the economy of the entire country.

Data from the Department of Commerce showed a dip of 5.8 percent in new residential construction for August compared to a 1.4 percent rise in July. New construction is one of many indicators the Department of Commerce uses to assess the overall health of the economy.

Economists said the downward movement could be blamed on flooding in the south, which temporarily put new construction on hold.

The south saw a 13 percent decline in single-family home construction starts in August, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Yet builders are confident that the market will quickly rebound. The NAHB reported a six-point jump in builder confidence for September.

Extreme events don’t just affect the housing market. They impact whole communities. Resilient design is one way that landscape architects attempt to minimize that impact. It is geared toward adapting to changing conditions and it maintains or quickly regains functionality when conditions are extreme.

The new guide presents ideas and tools to help communities recover more quickly from extreme events.

“The guide is intended to point readers to a series of examples of built projects that show how these infrastructures can be linked, and how they're multi-functional and how they can work,” said Lister, who was one of the reviewers.  
 
Resilient design to address flooding could include parks that can flood safely, gardens that can store excess water, and parking areas or roads that absorb water rather than allowing runoff. Many of these systems have positive secondary effects. For example, parks provide additional greenery that helps beautify a city and improve air quality, while also providing space for outdoor activities. 

“Those kinds of infrastructure work as complements to one another. They’re not redundant,” Lister said. “When one fails it’s not the end of the proverbial world.”
 
Lister said she has seen overwhelming public support for resilience projects.
 
“Community advocates are really important. They end up being the people who first of all will change the way people vote, they raise the level of literacy — ecological and resilience literacy — in the public and the public starts to demand things.”
 
The stumbling block often comes from governments that don’t know how to plan, fund and evaluate projects that don’t fit into their existing categories, Lister said.
 
“Their assessment criteria don’t speak to one another,” Lister said. “Often these types of infrastructures appear to be much more expensive than they really are.”