Building Resiliency

Trussed scaffolding with three workers on it outside an old brick building.
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

If you’ve ever studied building construction, bridge construction, or just about anything else that is manufactured today you will be familiar with the concept of trusses. These are building components that consist of interconnected parts that work together to form one cohesive part of the building. Most commonly you will see them in roofing or flooring where they are a key component of contemporary lightweight construction. You may also see them in external uses, like the scaffolding in the image above.

Trusses are used for many reasons, but primarily because they are lightweight, agile, easily customized, and incredibly strong. In many ways they are similar to Western society, with many great advantages. But, like Western society, trusses also have a major weakness: they only work so long as all of the pieces stay in place. Once you lose one piece of a truss, the rest of the truss starts to take on more strain. If you can fix it quickly enough, then you may skate through without a problem, but the longer it remains unfixed, the weaker the truss becomes.

When you consider just how most cities and urban areas work, they are like trusses in many ways. We rely on critical infrastructure to get our heat, food, water, finances, and just about everything we use on a daily basis. If we lose one piece of that critical infrastructure, we are okay for a short time. The longer that piece goes without being restored, the less resiliency we have and the sooner things will begin to break down.

But resiliency isn’t simply the responsibility of those in the critical infrastructure sectors, it is everyone’s responsibility. And while these conversations are beginning to happen, they are mostly taking place in silos that have very little crossover between sectors. Rarely is an architect talking to an Emergency Manager about how to build resiliency. In general, academics are not speaking with refinery operators about how to build resiliency.

If we are going to build a more resilient society and more resilient people within that society, then we need to start having these conversations on a larger basis. We need to start moving across sectors, disciplines, and industries to having holistic and inclusive conversations about resilience. Until we do that, we’re all just whistling in the wind.

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