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Construction Corner: RELi system could help drive more resilient infrastructure

Korky Koroluk
Construction Corner: RELi system could help drive more resilient infrastructure

It’s spelled RELi, pronounced rely, and it could be an important path on the road to greater resilience of our built infrastructure as a warming climate drives more and more aberrant weather events.

The U.S. Green Building Council announced the adoption of RELi a couple of months ago.

It’s a resilience rating system that operates much the way the LEED rating system does and it’s been in the works since 2012. If you’re building in the U.S., it’s available now. But while it’s available, it’s still a work in progress.

A group has been formed to guide its evolution. An initial objective is figuring out how the new rating system will integrate with LEED. The ultimate hope, though, is that RELi develops into a robust international standard for resilience.

One of the early movers and shakers in the development of RELi was architect Doug Pierce at the architecture firm Perkins + Will. There was also input from resilience experts at Deloitte Consulting, the Eaton Corporation and Impact Infrastructure.

In August 2014, a comprehensive rating system was released as the RELi Resilience Action List. Its objective was to quantify the resilience in buildings.

Along the way, the evolving rating system passed through the consensus process used by the American National Standards Institute, which immediately gave the system credibility, if not a lot of use.

Version 2 of RELi has just been released and work on version 3 has begun. That version ought to be in place sometime in 2019.

RELi in its present iteration is available in the U.S. now. Certification is being handled by Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI), which is a sister organization of the Green Building Council.

RELi was developed as a standalone system. That means its credits cover a wide range of resilience topics such as fundamental access to first aid, emergency supplies, water and food, to name a few. Inevitability, though, some of the credits overlap LEED credits, which is why the new system will need to evolve in order to integrate more easily with LEED.

Pierce, now a senior associate at Perkins + Will, gave an interview in Boston recently in which he said RELi shows “the merging of thought leadership from some of the world’s most progressive designers and thinkers.

“It’s going to create unprecedented potential for market transformation toward resilience planning and resilience design.”

People have become aware it’s a very short line that separates the concepts of resiliency and sustainability.

Evan Reis, co-founder of the U.S. Resiliency Council, said “sustainability is about the building having a low impact on the environment (and) resilience is about the environment having a low impact on the building.”

Pierce is chair of the RELi working group. Vice-chair is Alex Wilson, founder of the Resilient Design Institute, BuildingGreen, and my favourite blogger on anything to do with resilience.

Wilson is a long-time advocate of a resilience rating system. He was instrumental in the development of the Resilient Design pilot credits in LEED, which are being folded into RELi.

But what about Canada? Will we see RELi? When?

The development of ratings, codes or standards involves a lot of work by a lot of people. It’s a step-by-step process with many meetings and much debate before a consensus can be reached and a code or rating can be written or updated.

In Canada, certification of systems like LEED or RELi are handled by GBCI Canada, which is tied to the Canada Green Building Council.

Asked for comment about RELi, the council replied that it would “evaluate all GBCI programs for relevance to the Canadian market, and determine if modifications might help improve applicability.”

The council’s note added it was aware of interest in resilience as our weather gets worse which is why it will be “a topic of focus for us” at this year’s national conference June 5 to 7 in Toronto.

Korky Koroluk is an Ottawa-based freelance writer. Send comments to

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