The frequency of severe weather events in Canada has tripled over the past 50 years, resulting in an increase in severe flooding, ice storms and extreme heat, often combined with power outages. When these weather events occur, Toronto looks to residents to “shelter-in-place” for a minimum of 72 hours, which means a reliance upon their local community, but given ever-growing density, people often don’t know their neighbours.
How can we leverage amenity spaces already present in multi-unit residential buildings by providing the hard and soft infrastructure necessary to build socially resilient communities? The Neighbourhood Nest is a place to make social connections during regular times but can be adapted to support the community during climate change-related emergencies as well as pandemics.
The internalized private amenity spaces that we already provide in all new housing are reimagined as welcoming, open community assets by signaling opportunities to pause for a moment, stay for a while and return to enjoy a variety of resources and activities. While most residential buildings have security guards that function mostly as passive gatekeepers, we propose reframing the job description to curate rather than guard in order to facilitate inclusive community engagement. On top of these soft infrastructure interventions, a robust hard infrastructure of back-up services includes an adaptive communications network, a continuous clean water supply, refrigeration for medical and other essential supplies, a heating, air conditioning and filtration system to enhance air quality, all backed up on an emergency power supply. During extreme weather or other unforseen crises, these spaces can transition into the nodes where we can gather to take shelter, plan next steps, coordinate emergency provisions, and pool resources. Or when physical distancing is the appropriate response, these places can become the robust communications hub that will keep people conncected to one another, providing the information they need, and flexibility to act as emergency supply distribution hubs for a variety of critical needs.