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Designing for Climate Change

(March 2013) posted on Fri Mar 08, 2013

Experts offer insights on creating hospitality spaces suited to a warmer, stormier world.


By Matthew Hall

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Two years ago, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) teamed with the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to release a white paper titled “Green Building and Climate Resilience: Understanding Impacts and Preparing for Changing Conditions.” While that report garnered some attention in design circles when it was issued, interest in its topic has taken a quantum leap in recent months, as concerns over climate change have gone from being the pet project of Al Gore and assorted eco-nerds to something that’s a real worry to the population at large.

The reason: a growing series of tornadoes, tsunamis and other major weather-related disruptions, including last fall’s Superstorm Sandy. All that tumult has served as a wake-up call on climate change and the major impact it is likely to have on the built environment in coming decades.

“Attention to resilience-related design issues has absolutely ramped up recently,” says Chris Pyke, USGBC’s vice president of research and one of the report’s co-authors. Similar sentiments were expressed by the founder of the Resilient Design Institute, which was born last summer. (For more on that group, see the “From the Editor” column in BD March issue.)

The core conclusion of the USGBC/Taubman paper is this: “While climate has always been integrated into the building professions, our codes, standards and practices typically assume that the future will be similar to the past. Climate change requires that we update these codes, standards and practices with the best available knowledge.”



Building on that call to action, Boutique Design reached out to several experts in sustainable design for their insights on state-of-the-art methods for creating hospitality spaces that will stand up to the climatic challenge of the future, which is likely to be stormier and warmer than the past. Here’s what they had to say:

Randa Tukan, senior vp/director of hospitality, HOK; and Thomas Knittel, vp/senior project designer, HOK 

One of the simplest things designers can do in creating hospitality projects for hotter and more arid climates is to think carefully about form and arrangement. In nature, self-shading and heat-rejecting forms are common. Resilient design strategies emulate these patterns and principles.

In two examples from Doha, HOK design teams were challenged to create luxury hospitality venues in Qatar’s desert climate. They drew wisdom from nature and the area’s traditional building strategies to inform sustainable, energy-efficient design features and material selections.


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