Last month, Paladino was invited to make opening remarks at the USGBC Voices on Resiliency speaker event held on June 18 in Washington, DC. The esteemed panel, led by moderator Roger Platt, USGBC president, included Harriet Tregoning of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Nikhil da Victoria Lobo, of SwissRE; and Jeff Finkle, of the International Economic Development Council.
Sustainability and Resiliency
Paladino Director Rachel Sowards opened the evening with her thoughts on how sustainability and resiliency go hand in hand, offering a poignant speech about how resiliency touches us all in our personal lives, noting how we grow and learn to be resilient humans through each experience. She posed the question to the audience, that while resiliency is second nature to human growth and learning, then why is it often challenging to incorporate this concept into resilient design and management plans within our businesses and in the built environment?
Rachel provided a summation of the strong, innate connection between sustainability and resiliency. If resiliency is defined as the power or ability to return to the original form after unforeseen changes, then sustainability is the adaptive, dynamic system behind achieving resiliency.
“…The topics of sustainability and resiliency are truly intertwined,” Rachel shared. “Our focus is always on how to create enduring value for the community, the individual, and the natural environment – addressing each in a way that encourages smart development.”
The Paladino DC team was well represented during the event with 10 staff in attendance. Each were left with a new found perception regarding the natural link between resiliency and sustainability within the business world, the natural environment and our own personal lives.
Read their takeaways below:
The first voices of resiliency event was a great introduction to how the idea of resiliency is universal and can be a guiding principle to organize any initiative, business or community. The introductory note by Rachel Sowards got us thinking about how resiliency is not just an external idea that we need to impose or follow but rather an intrinsic, intuitive thought process that all of us can identify with, from our personal through our professional lives.
This thread was picked up by the brilliant panel who all gave us their own perspective and experience of how they applied resiliency at their workplace but also how it was personally meaningful to them. To me, these insights were a great way to think about how I can contribute to the resiliency of my community in my own way in a manner that holds personal value.
A good personal connection between resiliency and sustainability enables long term growth and well-being for individuals and the community as a whole. By making a personal connection to resiliency and being aware of yourself and others, the parallel to sustainability is unfolded. After hearing Rachel speak about resiliency, I was able to connect to my own personal story and the concept of creating a supportive network that diverse life situations and unexpected occurrences. For example, when experiencing a personal or environmental disaster, it is vital to have an established network of resources in place.
I enjoyed the networking aspect and panel discussion at the Voices on Resiliency event. I thought Rachel Sowards delivered a superb speech about sustainability and how it relates to the thriving nature of resiliency. Every human being experiences set-backs in life and it is how we maintain composure under stress and pressure and continue to deliver results.
Many sustainability professionals have had to create their positions and persistently prove why the triple bottom line is both lucrative financially, socially, and environmentally. To me, the words resiliency and sustainability mean the same thing- in order to survive abrupt or continuous change personally and community-wide, both are necessary.
The Voices on Resiliency event showcased the important role of sustainability practitioners in the challenge of creating resilient urban areas. By assessing and resolving vulnerabilities in various regions, we create lasting changes in how we plan for future needs while meeting sustainability’s goal of efficient outcomes. As Rachel Sowards stated in her speech, “If resilience is the ability to ’try and try again,’” then when we fall, we need to get back up and take the next strategic step toward enhancing the triple bottom line. Rather than only creating physically stronger infrastructure, sustainability practitioners should serve as thought leaders on how to recover from shocks to urban systems, with solutions that strengthen the policy and people within the community.
Overall, I found the panel discussions to be very informative and well-organized. Each speaker came from a diverse background in government, reinsurance, and economic development. They gave great insights on sustainability and resilience. Sustainability focuses on long-lasting impacts, not just rebuilding a community exactly like what it used to look like, but making it stronger and more resistant to large disasters. While thinking about what to do when a big disaster hits, it is also important to think about what we do now that can benefit people day-to-day.
For example, planting trees in the city not only helps prevent flooding when a major storm hits but also provides more green space for people and helps reduce urban heat islands. After the discussions, the concept of resilience no longer feels distant. After all, resilience starts on a personal level—to be able to bounce back after experiencing difficulties in life. The built environment, sustainability and resiliency go hand in hand.
If you’d like to attend a Voices on Resiliency event, the next panel will take place on Sept. 24 in Washington DC, with additional details to be announced shortly. We look forward to seeing you there and furthering the discussion.