Design for Climate Adaptation
Research Panel

Design for Climate Adaptation

Knowledge to Action

This text is an elaborated version of the editorial by Billie Faircloth1 & Maibritt Pedersen Zari2 published in the proceedings of the UIA World Congress of Architects 2023 Copenhagen (Springer)

1 Partner and Research Director at Kieran Timberlake, Adjunct Professor, University of Pennsylvania (US)

2 Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, Aotearoa New Zealand

Adapting to our planet’s changing climate is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and potentially the most urgent. As global communities mobilize to address the present and future challenges  posed  by  climate  change,  an  architecture  that  promotes  symbiosis  with  and regeneration of ecosystems is emerging as one of their key allies. Indeed, spatial design, architecture, landscape architecture, planning and the entire building sector play a great role in establishing relationships between communities and the environments they inhabit.

Design for Climate Adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change and focuses on the relationships between people with the ecosystems and climates they are part of, covering a temporality that spans beyond the immediate present. Design for Climate Adaptation begins with questioning who is carrying out adaptation, why, how, who is it for, and at which pace and scale. It investigates design solutions and building traditions that can respond to the threats posed  by  rising  sea levels, extreme flooding, droughts, wildfires, food and water scarcity, acidification of the oceans, salinization of soil, decrease of biodiversity and so forth, taking into account the indirect social, cultural, psychological and economic effects of these phenomena. (Egerer,  et  al.,  2021;  Stagrum,  2021; Gunnell et al., 2019;  Alizadeh, & Hitchmough, 2019; 2020; Kaczan & Orgill Kabisch et al., 2017; Palinkas, & Wong,  -Meyer, 2020; Adgar et al., 2013)

The subtitle of this Research Panel, ‘knowledge-to-action’, aims to highlight the importance of broadening the palette of diverse knowledge traditions that researchers and practitioners should work  with  when  engaging  in  design  for  climate  adaptation.  Indeed,  Design  for  Climate Adaptation  intersects  with  a  number  of  the  UN  SDGs,  and therefore  goes beyond  the identification  and  mitigation  of  the impacts  of  climate  change  through  technical  solutions. Instead, it is an ever-expanding interdisciplinary approach  encompassing  a  cultural  shift  in individuals’,  communities’  and  policy-makers’ understanding of intertwined socio-ecological- climate  systems.  Ultimately,  Design  for  Climate  Adaptation  calls  for  social  and environmental  justice  by  embracing  design  processes  and  regenerative  building practices that reduce vulnerability and increase the symbiotic coexistence of humans, non-human species and their environment.

In the context of the UIA World Congress of Architects Copenhagen 2023, Design for Climate Adaptation is approached through five subthemes, covered by many of the manifestos in this digital publication. These subthemes were conceived to tease out how practitioners working in the built environment can contribute to a holistic climate adaptation strategy:

●        Adaptation with Indigenous Knowledges stresses the necessity to understand, appreciate, embrace and learn from indigenous knowledges and ways of living, building and conceiving of nature. Which values, spatial practices and adaptation projects do local and indigenous communities lead, support or oppose? Which ethical stances and strategies can design practitioners adopt when collaborating with indigenous communities in an enabling collective effort to adapt to the changing climate in just ways?

●        Adaptation Through Frameworks and Feedback focuses on established and novel design frameworks, models and methodologies conceived to generate feedback for adaptation, mitigation, and regeneration projects approved at a local, tribal, regional, national, or international level. It includes the study of modeling, monitoring, computation, and simulation techniques aimed at influencing design decision -making at various temporal and spatial scales. What is the concrete impact of developing and adopting policies, regulations, standards, rating systems, and theoretical frameworks on climate-adaptation initiatives? What are the best data-driven or transdisciplinary models for predicting, managing and adapting the design of buildings, landscapes and cities to climate risk?

●        Adaptation Through Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) examines both holistic theoretical models and tangible examples of integrating the built environment with nature through the emulation of the functions and processes of ecologies, or direct integration with vegetation and water systems. This approach to climate adaptation includes ecosystem services-based design, bio-inspired design, biophilic design, green and blue infrastructure, ecosystem-based adaptation, urban biodiversity interventions, living system design, urban nature-based regeneration, urban seascaping and biometerological design practice.

●        Adaptation Through Architectural Technologies collects knowledge of innovative methods, techniques, materials, components, assemblies, infrastructure and systems that improve the climate-responsiveness of buildings, landscapes and cities. How can adaptive engineering and architectural technologies work to facilitate adaptation to the impacts of climate change, further decarbonization, and help to integrate energy generation in urban space and manage resource consumption effectively?

●        Adaptation Through Behaviour Change and Action explores the relationships between people’s values and consumption patterns and climate adaptation agendas, with a focus on behavior change and action-oriented approaches. This subtheme highlights the adaptive potential of those design process grounded in collaboration, participation, interaction, co -design, human-centered design and community engagement. Furthermore, it discusses the impact of climate justice social movements, environmental activism and civic behavior on urban transformation, while proposing design for climate adaptation as an agent of positive social change.


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