Caroline Field on building resilient cities
Caroline Field CEng MICE P.E. is Head of Risk & Resilience at BuroHappold Engineering. She has spent the last 13 years specialising in providing protective, resilient design for a variety of buildings and structures in cities across the world, including the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Terminal 5 at King Khalid International Airport.
We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘resilience’, but what does it actually mean?
Resilience is certainly the buzzword of the day. It has become a central concept in government over the last decade, and a lot of firms are jumping on the bandwagon by sticking the word onto a specific discipline, such as ‘flood resilience’.
BuroHappold believes that it is beneficial to understand the term more broadly. We define resilience as the will and ability to anticipate, endure, adapt and thrive within a changing environment. This allows us to consider all issues holistically, and develop a comprehensive strategy in response.
What potential issues should cities be alert to?
We consider a whole suite of stresses such as climate change and an aging population, and shocks like earthquakes or pandemics, and evaluate how these could affect them. Once these have been identified and the risks from each assessed, we prioritise how a city can begin to develop coherent measures to mitigate these threats.
So what makes a good resilience plan?
As the figure below illustrates, all successful resilience strategies balance mitigation with adaptive capacity, which is the ability to respond, recover and learn from disruption. The guiding principles that should inform any plan are ensuring it is balanced, co-ordinated, integrated, and sustainable.
How does BuroHappold develop citywide resilience strategies?
Often, we’ve found that efforts are focused too heavily on response and not enough on reducing vulnerability to hazards in the first place. So when we develop a resilience plan, we consider its impact on and the capability of society, government, the economy and the environment, as well as physical infrastructure and resources.
We adopt a risk-based technique in order to measure and then prioritise where resilience needs to be built. Our specialists work closely with city officials to identify the key drivers and priorities that will inform our plan, and to understand what strategies are already in place and how these are performing.
By breaking resilience down into demand and capacity, we are able to locate where the gaps are and respond with an integrated plan that addresses multiple shocks and stresses. We also take into account future trends – such as changing demographics and new technologies – to predict resilience demands and develop a sustainable long term plan.
And this plan is all a city needs to become more resilient?
It will give them a solid foundation on which to build. But to achieve good resilience, the city then needs to implement this strategy through a combined process of good governance, citizen engagement and empowerment, and stakeholder buy-in.
What is the best way to engage stakeholders with a resilience plan?
Here at BuroHappold, we find holding workshops helps bring people together to discuss the strategies and respond to concerns raised. We have also developed an online stakeholder tool, Resilience Insight, that allows a broad group of stakeholders to diagnose the resilience of their city through a series of statements that define ‘what good looks like’, and then asks them to agree or disagree on a 5 point scale.
So what is the take home message for cities?
It is important to remember that a resilient city is a safe and thriving city- one where people want to live and where companies want to invest. By recognising potential shocks and stresses, weighing up their threat and responding with an effective, coordinated resilience plan, every city can significantly reduce its risk of disruption or disaster. This plan should also instil confidence that, should a situation occur, the city has a plan in place to help them respond, and then build back better.
You can try BuroHappold’s Resilience Insight stakeholder engagement tool for free, and if you’d like any further information please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org