Defensive architecture: post-insurance building

Conventionally defensive architecture might conjure images of castles, trench warfare and maybe even prisons.  I’m interested in a more futuristic viewpoint. It derives from an observation made at the recent NZCCRI’s Climate Futures Forum; that the insurance industry is where climate change is being taken seriously (outside, that is, of the scientific community).  Events over the last year (the Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes, the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, even the tornado sweeping through Auckland’s North Shore the other night) has demonstrated both our need for insurance (and re-insurance) and the possibility that insurance will not be able to cope with the demands placed on it.

The extreme weather demands that climate change will increasing produce is already confronting us (e.g. over the recent Dec/Jan period: Queensland floods, four weeks of rain affecting 1.9 million people in the Philippines, flooding killing 600 in Brazil on 14 January, Sri Lanka experiencing the heaviest rain for 100 years with 300,000 people displaced …), and it is beginning to be understood that insurance as we understand it now – is not sustainable.  Numerous web sites suggest this, saying that “climate change poses material threats to the insurance industry,” that “Insurers increasingly recognise that it is the lack of action to combat climate change that is the true threat to their industry,” and that in 2007 the insurance industry “launched a major initiative to help tackle climate change … [developing] a set of ClimateWise principles … to reward customers for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.”

How then does architecture respond, not simply to climate change but a context where there might be no insurance?  What might post-insurance architecture look like?

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4 Responses to “Defensive architecture: post-insurance building”

  1. Frank says:

    I see insurance having an effect on buildings in two possible and very different directions. On the one hand I could envisage that construction could become more rugged, with massively over-designed brutish concrete structures that could take the worst that Nature could throw against us: ie able to resist earthquakes, tsunami, floods, tornados and more – with an architecture that is solid and squat and huddles down against the world.

    On the other hand, I could also see the advent of a McDonalds throwaway architecture – buildings built cheap and light and made to be jettisoned and abandoned and a new one built in the event of uninsured adversities. Neither option is particularly appealing.

  2. richard says:

    It might also be more subtle e.g. site selection. The lastest Listener has a relevant article.

  3. Kate says:

    I think that the relationship between monetary insurance and social insurance is an interesting one – at what point will there be some kind of value system where a local community is seen as being motivated to rebuild or replace built fabric in a robust manner or as not having the will or want to rebuild/retrofit/renovate.. In Chch we are dealing with a situation where some would rather move away and in others there is a strong want to rebuilt which, if incentivised, would mean an architecture of high quality – valued monetarily, socially and technologically, perhaps. I think that new buildings will be a mix of very permanent frame-like structures of the ‘brutish’ kind, with less-rigid spaces that could accommodate an array of uses.

  4. Guy says:

    Funny that, we were discussing that just now in the committee meeting. (are you coming?) What if there is no insurance available?