“Climate is just more of a factor now, and it can throw a wrench in things,” says Miles, who is still hustling to have the project completed in time for the holidays.
Though architects and designers have been steadily adopting more sustainable building practices and products for years, the other big climate word, “resiliency,” has taken on a new, urgent meaning: 23 separate billion-dollar disasters hit US residents from January to September this year, the largest number since anyone started counting. That’s a lot to recover from, and nearly every part of the country has been affected.
“Your home is literally your shelter now,” says Khoi Vo, CEO of the American Society of Interior Designers, who believes the industry has an important role to play in minimizing disaster risk going forward. “It’s a cultural shift that I think we all need to embrace very quickly.”
The good news, say Vo and other industry leaders, is that designers already have a variety of solutions, and marketing yourself as someone who can guide clients through storm, heat, fire, and flood precautions while prioritizing their quality of life is win-win. Jessica Cooper, of the International WELL Building Institute, likens it to the way designers have helped people retrofit their homes to age-in-place or serve them better during COVID lockdowns. “Resiliency-based considerations can make your life easier today,” says the chief product officer. “Just having appropriate shading could help lower your energy bills…. You’re enabled.”
Scottsdale, Arizona–based designer Tanya Shively has built her practice around the intersection of style, luxury, health, and well-being. She regularly teaches clients how to keep the heat out (with transparent sunscreens, window tints, shading—“it’s a multilayer thing, the more layers the better!”), as well as how to keep air fresh and clean even when occupants must shelter in place.
“Air quality inside is frequently worse than outside because of all the things we bring into our houses,” Shively says. “Thankfully, there’s been a movement to eliminate toxic chemicals in household stuff. I’m very conscious in not using flame retardants, stain repellants, or any of those coatings—they never really worked that well anyway, and they can leech into our air with the heat.”
Lisa Carey Moore, director of the buildings team at the International Living Future Institute, recommends the Declare Marketplace and Parsons Healthy Materials Lab as designer resources to parse which fabrics, flooring, furniture, and paints/sealants make sense as they begin to think about climate-proofing or “ruggedizing” homes. “If you’re in a competitive area, you’re going to have an edge if you have a plan to help clients with this,” Carey Moore says. That plan could include mold-resistant materials; air filtration systems; HEPA-filtered vacuums; a backup battery or generator for power outages; and attractive, easy-access storage for extra food and water.