Embedding built environments in social-ecological systems: Resilience-based design principles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Globalization, the process by which local settlements and ecosystems are becoming linked in a global network, presents policy scientists and planners with difficult design challenges. Coping with either natural or built environments in isolation is extremely challenging in its own right (e.g. built environments at different scales: a single building, a collection of buildings, a neighbourhood or a city are in themselves very complex). In the Anthropocene era, where human activities shape the planetary system in which built and natural environments are becoming more tightly linked across scales, these complex systems need to be considered as elements in a global network, i.e. as a coupled social-ecological system (SES) at the global scale. In the context of this spiralling complexity, multi-scale and multilevel processes become more important and design/management problems become extraordinarily difficult. Preliminary ideas are explored for how research on this multilevel design problem might proceed. Specifically, based on combining insights from a collection of theories and models based on resilience and robustness concepts, the basic elements of a new approach are presented that recognizes the importance of self-organizing processes at multiple scales and emphasizes the use of feedbacks to link these processes across scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-142
Number of pages13
JournalBuilding Research and Information
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2014


  • built environment
  • design principles
  • feedback
  • fragility
  • planning, resilience
  • self-organizing
  • social-ecological system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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