As the nation absorbs the shock of yet another natural disaster, this one in the form of Hurricane Michael, resiliency has once again come to the fore.

Of course, Michael was just the latest in a growing string of climate-change-fueled disasters that are increasingly pummeling the world’s cities. In fact, the financial losses from 2017’s earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires amounted to $306 billion, nearly double the $188 billion lost in 2016, according to insurance firm Swiss Re. At the same time, the world’s population is becoming more concentrated in cities. By 2050, 75 percent of the global population is expected to live in metro areas.

Whether it’s a cyber attack, natural disaster, or economic or social upheaval, cities are under more external stress than ever. Internally, cities face acute stresses as well—such as poverty, endemic crime and violence, or failing infrastructure—that weaken them over time.

While many architects have long been working toward resilient design, they now have a powerful and growing ally in the fight that can help architects obtain new work, build their practice and diversify.

These allies are chief resilience officers, and CROs, as they are commonly known, have become a fixture in 86 cities across the globe, including 25 of the largest metropolises in the U.S., thanks in large part to the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative. Since 2013, the 100RC has awarded more than $160 million to build resiliency around the world while its partners—which includes the AIA—have pledged $230 million in additional support along with $655 million from national, philanthropic, and private sources.

But while CROs champion resiliency, their role is more expansive than simply the design of buildings. Indeed, the 100RC defines resiliency, in part, as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow, not matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.” Those shocks and stresses encompass natural disasters, but they also include “overtaxed transportation systems, endemic violence or high unemployment.”

CROs are meant to cross silos and bring together multiple government agencies and sectors of society to take on challenges and opportunities in a collaborative manner—an effort often unseen in municipal government, the 100RC says. As such, CROs can take the resiliency conversation to the proactive level some architects have long sought.

So what does that look like in practice? Tulsa is a good example.

Since hiring its CRO, Tulsa, Okla., has created 918 Day, an annual event celebrating the city’s diversity, growth, and multiculturalism while strengthening social cohesion across all communities. Tulsa also started Equity Dinners to encourage constructive, meaningful conversations and bring understanding and unity amongst Tulsans of differing backgrounds.

“I see folks who previously kept themselves isolated from their neighbors, now jumping into neighborhood resilience feet first. And we are only in the dawn of Resilient Tulsa,” says DeVon Douglas, the city’s CRO, on 100RC’s website.

As the 100RC site sums it up, “While cities can’t predict which disruptions will come next, they can plan for them, learn from them, and generate additional benefits through the same investments, such as opportunities for economic growth or improved parks for city residents. In other words, they can achieve ‘resilience dividends’ that can make cities better places to live not just in times of emergency, but every single day.”

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