Friday, May 27, 2016

Stories of a Place: Exploring Resilience Strategies at Home

My work is centered on understanding nature's resilience strategies and exploring ways that we can learn from them to embed resilience into human systems, such as communities, businesses, and our built environment. It's a fascinating topic that continually enriches my work life, and one that I am interested in exploring at home as well!

I have decided to make my home the test bed for how nature's resilience strategies can be showcased at home. Please follow what I plan will be a series of posts about my progress toward making a resilient (re)design of a suburban home, one that is inspired by the "Stories of our Place!"

"Stories of our Place" is a concept I've been developing based on the Living Building Challenge for how our buildings and landscapes can learn from the native ecologies of the land in region in order to be more sustainable and resilient. This practice involves referencing and understanding the cultural and ecological history of a location, understanding the ecosystem services they perform, and emulating these patterns and principles into the built environment to solve our critical challenges. So what does this look like at a single-family residential scale?

My home sits uphill from the DuPage River in Naperville, Illinois, a town 30 miles west of Chicago. Our area was first "settled" in 1830 by a group of families from Ohio who set up a timber mill along the banks of the river, which served was water and energy source for the settlement. As the area was "settled," it was roamed by native americans, predominately by the Potawatomi, which apparently had friendly relationships with the white settlers. Native american tribes are no longer present in the area to any large extent.

What started as modest homes nearly 150 years ago, many of these are being torn down in favor of larger homes, such as my own, which was built ten years ago. While the sustainability professional in me is embarrassed by the size of my home, which is way too large for our family of four, I think it is important for all building types to plan for incremental changes in order to improve our built environment. This is an increasingly pressing need because it is estimated that 80% of the buildings that will exist in 25 years already exist today. So if we are able to plan for these incremental changes, we will be able to improve the sustainability and resilience of our built environment over time and in a financially sustainable way as well!

Change begins at home, as they say, so I will be showcasing the changes we make as well as the process by which we make these decisions. It is my hope that this transparency will help others as they plan to increase the sustainability and resilience of their home according to its replacement cycle.

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