Just how resilient are our cities and businesses?
This year’s Global Summit highlighted the risks and threats we all live under, every single day.
This year’s Global Resilience Summit held on Oct 17 at the QEII Centre, Westminster took the subject to a much wider scope. The conference focus usually centres on technological and security threats, but this year the former mayor of Beirut Prof. Bilal Hamad and world leading engineer Roger Nickells, CEO BuroHappold Engineering, painted the picture of risks on a much broader canvas with a formula for a securer future .
We live in a world that the US Army War College has dubbed VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Resilience is rapidly becoming the fundamental concept for defining policy, communicating a state of being or for suggesting successful paths through a VUCA environment.
City systems and infrastructure need to continually adapt and change to reflect the environmental changes if they are to be fit to meet current and future demands. The speed of change within our society is accelerating; driven by rapid advances in knowledge and technology; ever greater interconnectivity; and other factors such as urbanisation, populations growth, climate change and globalisation. Resilience is more and more being seen as the fundamental principle for assuring our futures.
A strident talk was given by BuroHappold Engineering’s Chief Executive, Roger Nickells, and Professor Bilal Hamad, until recently the Major of Beirut, and a seismologist of world renown.
Their talk outlined the ground-breaking work that BuroHappold is delivering in Beirut in the development of a comprehensive urban resilience masterplan for the city, a city marked by generations of strife and exposure to significant earthquake risk.
Key points included:
- Building city resilience is a fundamental need for engineering in the future
- Resilience is founded on a deep understanding of our cities and those strategic changes that are going to affect them
- We can measure resilience in terms of resilience demand (the sum of shocks and stress factors that are going to impact a city) and resilience capacity (the ability of the city to meet that current and future demand)
- Resilience capacity is impingent on the cities will and ability to anticipate, endure, response, adapt and ultimately thrive; all of which are underpinned by good governance
Professor Bilal Hamad described his strongest ceaseless efforts to see Beirut’s susceptibility and exposure to harm to be understood and engineered away. In support he orchestrated a World Bank funded Resilience Masterplan.
Roger Nickells elaborated on the importance of resilience in this role and went through the robust and systematic methods BuroHappold has been using to meet the challenge. This included the development of a city risks diagnostic tool which any city leadership team can use to determine their own position. The tool which allows much of the guess work currently endemic in this area to be removed and replaced with sound, evidence based decision making. If we are going to build the resilience of our cities to meet the demands of the future, the business cases for change and development much be made now, and the only evidence to support such business cases comes from tools such as “Resilience Insight”. Why spend capital on flood defences after the flood when the evidence can be made available before the flood. As a result of the conference, BuroHappold is developing a parallel tool for use by businesses with large estates.
The challenge was given to BuroHappold by Professor Bilal Hamad to create a strategy that recognises the unique nature of Beirut and presents sympathetic and realistic measures to build the city’s resilience over time, preparing the city for a brighter future. Key amongst these challenges is the threat of earthquake which has a devastating potential for the city. Our assessment has allowed us to develop a deep understand of what is most important to Beirut; from where does it derive its real value. From this starting point a strategy of filling gaps in understanding, reducing the threat posed by earthquake through improvements in structures and infrastructure and working with institutions and communities so they take an increased and better coordinated role is essential.