Climate change is impacting how built professionals operate and plan future cities. “The way we have been taught to design and build our cities will need to change drastically, because what was normal, no longer exists,” says Dr Edna Peres, an acclaimed urban planner from the University of Johannesburg.Peres holds a doctorate in architecture with a focus on resilience thinking and regenerative design in the building environment. She is also a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

“In the green building environment, there is so much being done, but we need to mitigate the destruction that has already happened and start talking about not just sustaining, but thriving, rebuilding and regenerating.”

Peres suggests ten steps for built environment professionals in a constantly changing world:

1.    Talk about resilience
Start having conversations, not so much about sustaining the status quo, but about resilience. When we can’t keep things as they are, we need to change and adapt. One way is to learn from nature – how nature is resilient. The same from communities, buildings and cities, we can observe resilience around us.

2.    Build to adapt
Change the story from just sustainable development to something that is broader and more adaptive. The question is how we can start to build cities and buildings that can change, adapt and evolve over time. And this requires much more investment, not only in financial property terms but in people, nature and environmental terms.

3.    Don’t think in silos
A city is a complex thing and is made up of many parts that are linked. As an architect, your world doesn’t end where a building ends. Every action has a ripple effect, so become mindful of the effects of your actions as a professional and the effects of other professions in your realm.

4.    Learn from others
Integrate and learn from each other in the built environment. Rather than just being a specialist in your own field, become excited about what is happening in other fields and start applying those lessons in your field with an open mind.

5.    Recognise opportunity
Understand and appreciate that change is inevitable, but that it also brings a phenomenal opportunity that can be harnessed. You can either see change as a bad thing and shy away from it, or you can see it as an opportunity to understand how things are changing and then continue in a positive way.

6.    Improve diversity
We tend to think that diversity means less efficiency, but where the future is holding unknown disasters, more diversity means that we have cities with more options to respond to possible disasters. Think about how you could be building differently than the norm and design buildings with materials other than concrete – there are so many possibilities, don’t limit your mind to just one solution.

7.    Improve modularity
This means finding ways to create self-sufficiency. For example, a neighbourhood, building or precinct that is self-sufficient is not dependent on what happens around them. On the other hand, if something happens within that precinct, it won’t necessarily affect the broader system.

8.    Improve backups
For example, a building shouldn’t just rely on air-conditioning, but should have an alternative such as windows that can open when the power is out. Simple ideas that are common sense should be brought back into the way we think about our work. And when you find a good system or a good solution, start building more of those into your projects.

9.    Experiment, observe and adapt
Be open to trying new things – think about a crazy solution, look for answers where you weren’t taught to look. Write your own textbook, be open to the process of experimentation and don’t limit yourself. Life is a beautiful, creative process.

10.    Have a clear goal . . .
. . . to create cities and buildings that allow all life on earth to not just survive, but thrive.

“As change agents, which all built environment professionals can be, we have an unbelievable power to leave a legacy for future generations which we can already start to enjoy in our own lifetime. We do not need to be prophets of doom, we can be prophets of hope,” Peres concludes.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Dr Edna Peres for the information given to write this article.