Rethinking High Performance Buildings

Chief Sustainability Strategist Nicole Isle, with Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group, wrote an article for the International Living Future Institute’s Trim Tab magazine.

In the blog, Nicole explores the intersection of building resiliency and biophilic design, and discusses how the pursuit of occupant wellness can actually better prepare buildings for environmental or natural disasters.

In the Trim Tab article, Nicole writes:

Resiliency and health are broadening our thinking around high performance building, and Biophilia is a design tool for incorporating both and working to mitigate the effects of climate change.

When the sustainable design community discusses resilient buildings, the dialogue is often couched in phrases like “onsite energy independence,” “future-proofing,” and “community readiness.”

Yet, as we’ve learned from the increasing incidence of traumatic climate-related events, resiliency goes beyond keeping buildings upright and lights on. We have seen (and some of us may have unfortunately experienced) the consequences of severe wildfires, flooding, and storms that in 2017 alone cost the U.S. economy $312.7 billion dollars (NOAA 2017) in property and infrastructure damage, business disruption, and community displacement. More often the causes of these events arise from atypical conditions—draught and unusual weather—that collide with the seasons, sparking wildfires, and unleashing tornadoes, hurricanes, dangerous winter weather, and flooding. When the power goes out, the water isn’t safe to drink, and people can’t go anywhere, the risks and costs to businesses escalate minute by minute. Those repercussions aren’t limited to the communities affected. The media stories of the physical and mental stress the communities endure are felt globally, and the resulting emotions effect our daily lives, interfering with our relationships, and hampering our productivity.

The frequency and intensity of weather-related events is growing. This is true, despite global and local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which largely stem from fossil fuel use, as well as the more recent spotlight on meat consumption and food waste.

With all this happening and our knowledge of our impacts to the planet, it seems we need to re-evaluate our efforts in the building industry and rethink “high performance.”

Read the full post at

Nicole Isle, Chief Sustainability Strategist, LEED AP BD+C, WELL Faculty, BADT, LBC Ambassador

Image courtesy of LMN Architects