2 min read
01 Nov 2023

Sustainable Design in a Climate Emergency


The last 50 years has seen a rapid increase in extreme weather events, with this summer alone subject to a number of highly publicised ocean storms, wildfires, droughts and flooding. Scientists warn that these kinds of events may become increasingly common as global warming accelerates, with an estimated 150 million people currently living in land that will either end up below sea level or experience regular flood levels by the end of the century.

The impact of such catastrophes and the ensuing displacement of peoples can have global consequences and requires sustainable solutions beyond the immediate emergency response. The sustainable design of houses for displaced people after natural or manmade disasters is therefore a crucial aspect of disaster-relief efforts.

Stephen George + Partners (SGP) recently had the opportunity to collaborate with De Montfort University in Leicester, on the ADRELO (Advancing Resilience in Low Income Housing) project. The brief was to produce a concept design for affordable, sustainable, and resilient houses for vulnerable, low socio-economic status (SES) populations in low-lying coastal zones that have high risks of droughts and floods in parts of East Africa and Brazil.

In summary, our approach aimed to tackle the different aspects of the sustainable design principles.

  • Future and Global Responsibility
  • Environment
  • Passive Resilience
  • Materials
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • People and Community
  • Delight

The project highlights the importance of vernacular studies and climate analysis, as well as the use of data analytics and dynamic simulation software to produce resilient sustainable housing. Such methodologies have been critical in the development of a passive design and limiting dependence on mechanical solutions, for example with issues of shading or rainwater harvesting. This methodology creates architecture, which is not only sustainable, but also environmentally responsive, anticipating the future challenges of the climate emergency.

  • Adapting to changing climate
  • Climate changes mitigation
  • Creating positive ad restorative designs
  • Improving climate justice locally and globally


Another aspect of the project has been the importance of working with local materials, local masonries, and contemporary engineers to push the boundary of what is possible, creating a design that is fit for purpose, responds to the environment and meets the needs of a local community.

A full discussion of our approach, the design process and methodology, as well as the resulting design concepts, can be downloaded here:

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