Individuals in the design and construction community are increasingly choosing materials, design techniques and construction procedures that improve a structure’s ability to withstand and recover from extreme events such as intense rain, snow and wind, hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfire. As a result, specifying robust materials and design details, and constructing flexible and easily repairable buildings are becoming important design criteria.
Resilience is the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events. For a building, this means being designed to withstand and recover quickly from adverse situations such as flooding and high winds, with an acceptable level of functionality. A structure built to withstand such natural disasters with minimal damage is easier to repair and can contribute to sustainable development. Designing for resilience can contribute to minimizing human risk, reducing material waste and lowering restoration costs.
As a result of shifting weather patterns due to climate change, there is a growing interest in adaptation and designing for resilience. Higher temperatures can increase the odds of more extreme weather events, including severe heat waves and regional changes in floods, droughts and potential for more severe wildfires. There are more intense and more frequent hurricanes, and precipitation often comes in the form of intense single-day events. Warmer winter temperatures cause water to evaporate in the air and if the temperature is still below freezing, this can lead to unusually heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain, even in years when snowfall is lower than average.
A resilient building is able to deal with changes such as a heavier snow load, wider temperature fluctuations, and more extreme wind and rain. Existing wood buildings can be easily adapted or retrofitted if there is a need for increased wind or snow loading. Wood buildings that are properly designed and constructed perform well in all types of climates, even the wettest. Wood tolerates high humidity and can absorb or release water vapour without compromising the structural integrity.
In some regions, climate change is seen to be contributing to increasingly complex wildfire seasons, which results in greater risk of extreme wildfire events. Some wildland fire regulations target specific construction features in wildland-urban interface areas, such as exterior decks, roof coverings, and cladding. A number of wood products meet these regulations for various applications, including heavy timber elements, fire retardant treated wood and some wood species that demonstrate low flame spread ratings (less than 75).
For further information, refer to the following resources:
Resilient and Adaptive Design Using Wood (Canadian Wood Council)
American Wood Council
American Institute of Architects