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Sustainability, adaptability & resilience

3' read - published November 17th, 2022

Adaptability, resilience, sustainability ... these are all terms that we have heard a lot in recent years. Although often used interchangeably, each of these words has a specific meaning. What they have in common is that an adaptable, resilient and/or sustainable property is a safe and attractive investment.


In this article, we take a look at the meaning of each of these terms, and we discover examples of innovative projects dealing with sustainability, adaptability and resilience.


Sustainable architectural design aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the building. This is achieved by limiting the impact of the construction works, using low carbon materials, designing an energy efficient building and/or optimising the life cycle of the construction.

The ABC project in Grenoble, for example, is a great example of sustainable building. The sixty or so rental flats it houses are designed to have minimal water and energy consumption.

The city of Winterthur in Switzerland is preparing to host the world's tallest wooden residential tower: Rocket Tower. The 100-meter high building is scheduled to be completed in 2026. This project demonstrates that it is possible to use wood even for high-rise buildings, thus generating a lower carbon impact than a steel and concrete construction.

The headquarters of the Triodos bank in the Netherlands is designed to optimise the building's life cycle. The entire building can be disassembled and each component of the building has a 'material passport' to record its life. The building can be modified to a certain extent as its use changes, but above all it can be completely dismantled when it is no longer needed. The parts can then be reused in other constructions.


An adaptable architectural design is capable to adapt based on actual, potential or assumed changes from its context. Adjustment can be spontaneous or planned, it can occur in response to an event or in anticipation of it. For buildings, the main changes that can occur are either a disaster that impacts on the functioning of the building (natural event, energy shortage ...), or a change in usage due to changes in lifestyles.

For example, in the United States, many suburban shopping centres are no longer attracting enough customers as they turn to online shopping. Highland Mall (Austin) has been converted into a university campus. One Hundred Oaks (Nashville) became a medical centre. The Macy's in Richmond Heights has been transformed into a storage space with cubicles.

The 3 Black Swans project in Strasbourg incorporates these long-term changes of use from the design phase. The winning project of the architectural competition launched by the city and the developer offers spaces that can be used for housing or offices with very minimal adaptations.

In Europe, many renovation projects face a long development time. In this case, temporary uses are sometimes organised. This is a planned adjustment in anticipation of a future change of use. This is the case of Kanal Brut in Brussels, where a temporary museum has been installed in a former Citroën garage pending its renovation into a museum of contemporary art. This was also the case at Les Grands Voisins, on the site of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in Paris, for five years. The site of this former clinic will eventually be converted into an eco-district. Similarly, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the courtyard of a historic downtown mansion was converted into a temporary public space while the building was being renovated.


A resilient architectural design incorporates a series of measures that allow the building to function before, during and after a shock. It is thus different from an adaptive design, as it is about maintaining the life of the building at all times, without interruption.

The "Maldyves" project, built in Goyave in Guadeloupe, is an example of resilient construction in the face of climatic hazards. This positive energy building has been designed to withstand cyclonic events. It is also capable of being self-sufficient in electricity and water in the event of a disaster. Its resilience was proven during the passage of storm Fiona in September 2022.

The Simone Veil school in Rosny-sous-Bois (France) is a new, low-tech building designed for high energy performance. It remains temperate even in hot weather, allowing pupils to continue to attend classes in pleasant conditions.

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