While LEED focuses primarily on buildings, the thrust of this chapter’s discussion is on the resilience of communities and their complexities. For example, a metric of the overall resilience of an entire city may mask substantial variations within the city. Carried to an extreme, we might conceive of resilience as varying continuously over the Earth’s surface, similar to the way elevation varies, and scale-dependent in both space and time. Moreover, resilience is a function of many factors, not all of which may be the same for all people, even when those people occupy the same location.

Problems such as these are familiar to geographers and others who work with geospatial data, and are commonly termed the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (see, e.g., Longley et al., 2011). Such problems arise when the results of an analysis, such as the measurement of resilience, depend on the areas used for the analysis. We might find, for example, that neighborhoods in some areas of New Orleans are substantially more resilient than other neighborhoods and that New Orleans as a whole has a resilience in the middle of the range, when compared with other places. By selectively lumping neighborhoods together, in other words, by modifying the areal units in a process similar to gerrymandering electoral districts, one could produce a map that sharply and misleadingly contrasts highly resilient areas and much less resilient areas.

The committee recognized the need to address this problem in any recommended system of measurement. The key is the concept of community, and its requirements of self-identification and mutual affinity, allowing a community, its members, and its boundary to be treated as an existing, well-defined area. In this sense a neighborhood, a town, or an entire city might all qualify as communities; and a community need not be formally recognized as an administrative unit, or precisely defined by a boundary on the Earth’s surface. Any individual might belong to more than one community, each with its own measurement of resilience; a New Orleans resident might live in a highly resilient neighborhood, but in a city of relatively low resilience. With this principle as its foundation, and no possibility of arbitrary or selective gerrymandering, the process of measurement of community resilience becomes much more straightforward. Essentially, and recalling a long-recognized duality in geography and related disciplines (e.g., Tuan, 2007), resilience needs to be addressed by reference to place and not space.


Many organizations have tackled the problem of measuring resilience, or its close relative vulnerability, for the United States. This section reviews many of these efforts, choosing specific representative examples for detailed discussion.

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