Take-aways from the International Conference on Building Resilience in Lisbon

Isabel Kaubisch of Clarendon Hill Consulting co-chaired the resilience infrastructure track at the 8th International Conference on Resilience Building (ICBR) from November 14 to 16, 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal together with Dave Hampton.

The ICBR conference aims to link disaster risk reduction science with policy and practice. Covering aspects reaching from urban design and planning, critical infrastructure, risk governance, climate change challenges to the cultural, built and natural heritage at risk to natural hazards, the conference deploys multiple theories, models and praxis examples to build (back) better in a more comprehensive, risk aware and prepared manner.

Our track 3F focused on resilient infrastructure. It tried to answer the following main questions: What is the key metric for resilience and how do you test for it? How can we improve infrastructure design and planning and how so in a more people-focused manner?

Conference presentations spanned the globe and addressed hard infrastructure (e.g. water, sewer, electricity supply and buildings) and soft infrastructure (such as communication systems) and the interdependence of social resilience and infrastructure failures, such as power outages. Specific gray and green infrastructure solutions were compared for various coastal and riverine protection measures and (temporary) water retention areas. Several case studies highlighted the advantage of the use of sustainable materials and measures.

The critical question of how to prioritize which infrastructure elements and areas should be protected from inundation, formed the baseline of an MIT Design Study for Chelsea, MA and should be central to any larger project area. It was shown that effective and meaningful community engagement is necessary for developing the right resilient solutions for specific locations. In addition to deploying a solid understanding of risk and vulnerabilities, the use of comparable metrics is advised in the development of successful designs. Benefit cost analysis (BCA) are one example for this. BCA can be extremely helpful to assist in the selection of measures, e.g. when designing solutions for the dynamic water edge.

In summary, successful resilient measures will be designed with people in mind and will draw upon a comprehensive view that enables sustainable actions by addressing all aspects of the triple bottom line: the socio-political, economic and environmental factors of a specific project.

Lastly, one (maybe) surprising lesson learned was that high social technical resilience does not necessarily enable high infrastructure resilience. A German case study showed that tech-savy young people would consider themselves less at risk but in fact were actually less prepared e.g. in the case of a power outage from a winter storm. Preparedness strategies therefore do need to apply a range of communication and engagement strategies to activate different types of populations.

Clarendon Hill Consulting works with several towns in New England to increase their resilience to natural disasters and climate change by deploying comprehensive risk and vulnerability assessments, conducting meaningful community engagement, and developing preparedness strategies and action plans that increase sustainability, connectivity, and livability.

Theme based on Danland theme by Danetsoft