As we enter a transition era that demands far greater resilience and sustainability in our technological systems, we must ask tough new questions about existing approaches to architecture and settlement. Post-occupancy evaluations show that many new buildings as well as retrofits of some older buildings, are performing substantially below minimal expectations. In some notable cases, the research results are frankly dismal [see “Toward Resilient Architectures 2: Why Green Often Isn’t”].
The trouble is that the existing system of settlement, developed in the oil-fueled industrial age, is beginning to appear fundamentally limited. And we’re recognizing that it’s not possible to solve our problems using the same typologies that created them in the first place. In a “far-from-equilibrium” world, as resilience theory suggests, we cannot rely on engineered, “bolt-on” approaches to these typologies, which are only likely to produce a cascade of unintended consequences. What we need is an inherent ability to handle “shocks to the system,” of the kind we see routinely in biological systems.