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Book review: Designing Resilient Cities – A guide to good practice

Designing Resilient Cities: A Guide to Good Practice

By DR Lombardi, JM Leach, CDF Rogers and the Urban Futures team

Published by IHS BRE Press, £60

In a world where turbulent economies, environmental and social change will increasingly be the norm, this practical resilience guide – with a focus on the built and natural form of cities – is of value. Born out of a four-year UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) grant into urban futures, it shows how we can plan and design resilience into our cities, enabling them to ride the inevitable punches.

This work cuts through the uncertainty of the future by creating a framework by which greater resilience in the built form can be achieved. Resilience is a tricky concept, and while the conceptual basis is adequate (and covered much more fully in the accompanying CD Rom), the work is more concerned with the technical and the application of the resilience idea. It achieves this by framing the guide via an ‘urban futures method’ and goes through 23 worked examples of resilient design as regards water use, biodiversity, air quality, energy and carbon, local economy, social mix and community building and healthy lifestyles. I was a tad disappointed with these examples, which were variable in scale and innovation and very much of the present existing professional practice. Perhaps some of the more experimental, cutting edge and non-professional ideas going on around the world should have been drawn upon.

The guide also deploys four possible worldviews or ‘scenarios’ by which each resilient design idea is looked through. I was enlightened by and enjoyed the ‘day in the life’ fictional ‘real life’ scenarios from these four worlds. At one extreme there is the equitable ‘new sustainability paradigm’ (one we would all hope for), compared to a protectionist ‘fortress world’ at the other. For me, this reflects the practical honesty of the work but also is apoliticism. This guide is not about changing socio-political context, it’s just practically working through resilient urban design solutions and options within whatever context emerges. In this it deserves a broad readership, especially from those who are the frontline of designing our cities.

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