Energy and Community Resilience

July 30, 2015
Session R1A: Active and Passive Policies that are Working — Room 104
9:00 am  -  10:00 am

There is a direct link between the production of energy for use in buildings, climate change, and the resiliency of residential environments that must be addressed through responsible policy, planning and design. Over the past five decades, climate change has had a profound impact on weather patterns. Rising air temperatures allow the atmosphere to absorb more moisture and hold it for longer periods of time, which has resulted in a growing amount of severe weather events. In the Northeastern US this means a rising trend in heavy precipitation, hurricanes and storms of increasing intensity and duration, and a heightened risk of high magnitude flooding. As the percentage of Americans living in the 100-year floodplain continues to grow, riverfront communities become more and more vulnerable due to rising flood insurance costs and damaged or overworked infrastructure. Energy costs are also rising, placing a disproportionate burden on low- and moderate-income families often residing in at-risk communities. Recent research and experience has shown that expenses related to energy use in housing can be greatly reduced through effective planning, design, and detailing for little if any increase in the cost of construction over conventional building. However, the question remains as to how these successes have or can inform policy to assure enhanced performance of communities and residential environments. This paper explores this question by analyzing US housing policy from the development of the National Housing Act of 1934 through implementation of current HUD directives and programs to determine how energy performance is considered in the development of affordable housing. Case study projects and successful community design strategies were identified to establish best practices in attaining more resilient and affordable communities. Conclusions indicate that little has changed since Catherine Bauer’s “Houser” days, however the situation has become critical – resilient community design focused on energy demand-reduction and distributed energy production is essential. This presentation advances an integrated systems-thinking approach to community design and resilient architecture embracing solutions from the turn of the last century through recent competition entries that project the future of resilient communities to 2050.