Greenprints 2014: Resilience and Retrofitting for a Built Environment



Lauren Jonas contributed to this article.

Southface’s annual Greenprints conference brought together national thought leaders in sustainable design, construction and communities. This year Southface welcomed speakers to discuss the critical nature of resilient homes and the importance of making them affordable and community-specific. Tim Smail of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes presented and moderated Leidy Klotz, Bruce McCullen, and Donn C. Thompson during a presentation in which they discussed the intersections of sustainability and resilience in high-risk natural disaster regions. Similarly, Dr. Jennifer Languell of Trifecta Construction discussed conserving and retrofitting homes in order to save money while increasing their resilience.

Dr. Leidy Klotz at the Greenprints 2014 conference.

Regarding resilience and sustainability, Dr. Leidy Klotz, associate professor of civil engineering at Clemson University stated, “You can’t have one without the other.” During his talk, Klotz emphasized that to enhance home resilience, homeowners, engineers and architects should focus on diversity of homes, durability through building practices, anticipation of a dynamic future and applying lessons from natural systems.

Donn Thompson, director of market development at the Portland Cement Association, discussed the financial component of resilient homes. Because of the growing recovery costs of natural disasters within the past few decades (i.e. hurricanes Katrina and Sandy), Thompson explained that we must begin to build resilient homes that can sustain themselves. Our economy simply cannot support non-resilient houses or buildings and it is no longer a viable option to continue to build this way in high-risk regions. The weakening of building codes, lack of property protection and increased sprawl and construction are all causes of the high cost of recovery experienced by high-risk disaster areas. Similar to Klotz, Thompson insisted that we must temper the conflict between our two ecologies.

To add to Thompson and Klotz, Bruce McCullen, president of McCullen Management Consultants LLC, highlighted ways in which we can build a stronger relationship between our natural and built environments. McCullen said, the use of “disaster durable solutions,” such as spray polyurethane foam for insulation, foam core doors and flood resistant materials, is just one of the ways that we can create a more resilient and sustainable environment.

Dr. Jennifer Languell at the Greenprints 2014 conference.

Dr. Jennifer Languell, founder and president of Trifecta Construction Solutions, added to the conversation in her discussion of residential retrofits with an eye on cost-benefit and affordable housing. She also insisted on sustainable construction, as well as the need for conservation over renewables. Languell agreed that building a resilient and sustainable house is important, but rehabilitating an old home through retrofitting is sometimes a better and more economical option. Trifecta Construction offers its own green home retrofit assessment in which clients can choose different areas of their house that they would like to improve. Having retrofitted her own 1970s home with green materials and technology, Languell’s $46 energy bill shocked the audience.

With an eye on the future, these speakers offered valuable and unique options for homeowners, architects and engineers. Their ideas can give hope to communities living in disaster regions or inland communities that one day their homes will be able to last longer, withstand natural disasters and provide them with low-cost energy.

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