Cities that have been around for centuries, if not millennia, have taken a lot of punches. And like Weebles, they might wobble but they don’t fall down. But for modern real estate investment purposes, it might help to rethink cities based on the notion of resiliency.

As defined by Grosvenor, a global, privately owned property group, resilient cities are those able to thrive in the face of unprecedented challenges such as climate change, population growth and globalization. And to its reckoning, North America scores best when it comes to having resilient cities.

“From a real estate investor’s perspective, resilience allows cities to preserve capital values and generate sustainable rental income in the long term,” according to the recent “Resilient Cities” report from Grosvenor. “In human terms, cities are resilient if they absorb shocks like Hurricane Sandy, maintain their output of goods and services and continue to provide their inhabitants with a good quality of life according to the standards of the time.”

Resiliency of cities has been taken for granted throughout history, but Grosvenor posits that exponential population growth and economic growth, along with Mother Nature’s increasing volatility, are taxing resources like never before and necessitate a fresh take on what urban resiliency means.

Grosvenor believes its future success as a business is tied to the sustainable growth of the cities where it invests and says that it and other real estate investors should look beyond “classic but limited definitions” of property risk such as standard deviation of returns, projected vacancy rate and forecast rental growth. “These have relatively little meaning in the long term and are particularly unhelpful in a world where the basic patterns of the last millennium are shifting,” Grosvenor says in its report. “Successful real estate projects depend on the long-term stability and prosperity of cities.”

As defined by Grosvenor, the dimensions of vulnerability include climate (such as rising sea levels); environment (pollution of all types); access to energy, food and water resources; adequate housing, transportation and utilities infrastructure; and aspects that make a community a good place to live, including housing, education and health facilities, crime rates and the government and business environments.

Based on these vulnerabilities and the adaptive capacity of 50 of the world’s major cities to cope with them, Grosvenor identified the top three resilient cities as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. These Canadian urban areas have the right combo of low vulnerability, high adaptive capacity and plenty of resource availability, along with being well-governed and well-planned.

Chicago and Pittsburgh are fourth and fifth on the list, with Stockholm; Boston; Zurich; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta rounding out the top 10.

But while the U.S. is well-represented among the world’s most resilient cities, Grosvenor notes that U.S. cities don’t fare as well in the vulnerability department due to inequality issues that lead to social tension, underinvestment in utilities and urban sprawl that creates overconsumption of land resources. That said, they do get high marks for their adaptive capacity thanks to their resources, technology and public accountability of elected officials.

New York City, which placed 14th in the overall resilience rankings, scored best in the separate category of most adaptive cities based on how it rebounded from both 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; San Francisco; Houston; Boston; and Pittsburgh also ranked among the top 10 most adaptive cities.

The bottom 10 cities on Grosvenor’s overall resiliency list are, in ascending order: Dhaka, Bangladesh; Jakarta, Indonesia; Cairo, Egypt; Manila, the Philippines; Mumbai, India; Rio de Janeiro; Mexico City; Guangzhou, China; Delhi, India; and São Paulo, Brazil.