Resilience in the Built Environment


Chloe Demrovsky, Disaster Recovery Institute International President and CEO | Forbes Contributor | NYU Adjunct Professor


Jennifer Pollack, Chair for Coastal Conservation and Restoration at Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, USA

Oysters and Oyster Reefs as Living Seawalls

Oysters can make effective natural infrastructure to combat coastal erosion and storm surge in those estuarine waters where they can thrive. As natural reefs they are self-repairing following storm or other damage that affect structural integrity of their naturally occurring reef structure, which typically orients to intersect prevailing currents. As individuals they can enhance other artificial coastal infrastructure designed for the same purposes, like using river rock, concrete, etc to form erosion barriers. Engineered structures can combine both natural and artificial constructs/techniques that employ biomimicry of natural reefs in orientation and structure to assure sustainability. Oysters, both on natural and artificial “reefs” perform multiple ecosystem services in addition to erosion and storm surge protection – filtering water to improve water clarity and quality; sequestering carbon; creating fish habitat; and, even providing a food sources for both animal and human consumption.

Evelyn Tickle, Founder, Inventor & CEO, Grow Oyster Reef, USA

Biomimetic Oyster reef building

GROW’s biomimetic, modular reef-building products boost nature’s systems by jumpstarting native oyster reefs to grow the native population of oysters, sequestering carbon, purifying oceans, and protecting shorelines. GROW’s vision is that all underwater infrastructure supports human and aquatic life symbiotically. Our coastlines are threatened by the impact of climate change. The oyster, a keystone species, in decline by 85% since the 1850’s, has been protecting the world’s coastlines for thousands of years. GROW products work with the oyster to build self-healing coastal defense infrastructures, attenuating wave energy and sequestering carbon.

Grow Oyster Reef create a range of scalable, concrete, biomimetic reef building substrate products, modeled after intact reefs. Fabricated using our proprietary CaCO3 concrete mix formulated to match the chemical composition of mature oyster shells, GROW products send chemical cues to attract embryonic oysters and provide early-stage nutrition.

Nicolas Vernoux-Thélot, In-Situ Architecture, France

New Aquitania : Eco-District

This project raises the following general question: how to develop the city and its land reserves while simultaneously addressing climate change, which involves preserving nature and existing biodiversity? Our answer consists in creating a biomimetic district with an ecological balance equivalent to Nature’s.
In concrete terms, the road network, the footprint of the buildings, the open spaces are dimensioned by studying the existing ecosystem and its resilient capacity to integrate the building. The oxygen / C02 cycle has been identified as the most constraining issue and leads to a maximum capacity of 5000 people.
Regarding the building footprint and templates, they were computed using a parametric tool that integrates solar input and tree preservation. Pines being a persistent species, they allow protection from the summer sun by providing shade and natural freshness.
The biomimetic approach avoids the principle of zoning and promotes a programmatic mix of buildings: residential, offices, local shops, facilities.

Eduardo Blanco, PhD candidate, CEEBIOS, France

Biomimicry in French sustainable urban projects: trends and perspectives from the practice

Biomimicry is a design framework with growing interests in sustainable architectural and urban design practice. Nevertheless, there is a significant lack of studies and knowledge regarding its practical application. In 2020, a French workgroup called Biomim’City Lab published a document identifying and describing 16 urban projects designed by French teams integrating biomimicry at various levels. Our research is an opportunistic study analyzing this data, aiming to identify trends and challenges in the French market. This sample indicates a trend of increasing interest in biomimicry on built space projects in France. Biomimicry was primarily applied at the façade/roof/soil systems, mostly using macroscopic models as ecosystems, plants, and animals. Designers declared to aim diverse objectives with the biomimetic approach; still, thermal comfort is the most recurrent in the sample. We also identified that challenges remain to foster the field application, as the lack of awareness of the urban fabric stakeholders on the topic and the gaps between research and design practice.

Ulsia Urrea Marino, Graduate Research Assistant at Harte Research Institute, USA

Coastal cities seen as socio-ecosystems systems: challenges and opportunities in the face of climate change

This work analyzes the cities of the Gulf of Mexico as a socio-ecosystems system. This conceptual and methodological framework makes it possible to identify the threats and risks that coastal cities face as a result of the climate change, in particular, from the perspective of urban planning and management, where coastal ecosystems through the provision of ecosystem services and nature-based solutions can help to undertake adaptation and mitigation actions. This study is in the phase of identifying the conceptual and methodological framework. However, it proposes a working hypothesis, research questions, and some characteristics to select the coastal cities to analyze in Mexico, Cuba, and the USA: one in each country.

Chris Zackery, Harte Research Institute, USA

Artificial Wetlands as a Large-Scale Water Treatment Strategy

The population of the North Texas Region is expected to double by 2060. Population growth drives the need for a clean and reliable water supply. Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) (George W. Shannon Wetlands Project, in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Richland Creek WMA) and North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) (East Fork Water Reuse Project and the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, in partnership with the Rosewood Corporation) worked together with Alan Plummer Associates to create innovative, efficient, and sustainable approaches for the natural filtration of water through the development of constructed wetlands. Each wetland has the ability to divert 95 million gallons of treated wastewater flows per day from the Trinity River, coming downstream from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The water is pumped into the wetland to be naturally filtered through a series of sedimentation basins and wetland cells filled with beneficial aquatic plants—removing on average 95% of the sediment and 50% to 80% of nitrogen and phosphorus. Once the water makes its way through each wetland, it is pumped to a reservoir, treated to drinking water standards, then delivered to consumers for use (NTMWD to Lavon Lake and TRWD to Richland Chambers Reservoir).

Nathalie Sement, mission lead at Alliance HQE, France

Jim Blackburn, Baker Institute (Rice University) Carbon Working Group, USA

BCarbon: Sequestering Carbon Naturally for Economic, Physical and Social Resilience

BuildingNatural Coastal Resilience and Infrastructure using a unique funding approach – Carbon sequestration credits.  We started our work on soil carbon because we wanted to establish a buffer zone along the Texas coast for surge flooding.  That was when we developed the idea of carbon sequestration payments and encountered the need to develop our own system.