There is an interaction between infrastructure systems that impacts energy, water, food, transportation, and other community systems. It is shaped by the commitment of the community and how it manages its financial investments to meet human needs.
With the numerous ecological problems impacting our world today, engineers have the challenging task of providing options and solutions that minimize environmental damage, the effects of natural disasters, and the impact on a city or community.
Sustainability addresses economic, social, and environmental performance metrics, while resiliency looks at strength, functionality, and recovery-time metrics after disaster.
Sustainable and resilient structural design has three parts:
• physical - safe buildings, lifelines, and data
• social - community cohesion, effective governance, non-profit organizations (NGO)s
• financial - public aid, insurance, lending institutions
When understanding and incorporating these parts, we prevent good buildings from going to waste. There is no point in designing a functional building only to have it abandoned after a natural disaster due to:
• lack of occupants
• political will
Avoiding social and economic disruption from extreme disasters requires redundancy across infrastructure/lifelines, post-event governance, and social connectedness. We can extend sustainability and resilience in construction by including an assessment of the entire vicinity and creating contingency planning. Retrofitting one building to withstand earthquake and flood damage doesn’t eliminate the problems if the neighboring buildings are not also evaluated and reinforced.
Making a contingency plan so that someone goes into buildings within an hour after a disaster to turn off utilities and assess potential problems limits further damage. Checking on the insurance policies and additional coverage options can also prevent delays in processing claims necessary for repairs or relocation.
Adapting with Climate-Resilient Design
Resilient systems compare performance levels to potential damage and recovery times after disaster. Handling uncertainty takes a blend of statistical and observational data to plan for physical changes to structures exceeding risk or damage thresholds. We expect the average global temperature to rise by 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has the latest models for risk assessment based on projected climate scenarios.
Improving Emergency Disaster Preparedness
Sustainable systems consider environmental impact and conservation of nonrenewable resources over the life-cycle. Recovery-time metrics prepare and mitigate economic, social, and environmental stress by anticipating building strength and functionality after disaster strikes. Power plants, wastewater facilities, bridges, roads, and buildings can be built with the latest knowledge, standards, and technology to prepare for new climate-induced challenges better. ASCE’s Infrastructure Resilience Division believes it is vital to coordinate planning between:
• infrastructure owners and operators
• federal agencies
• design professionals
• city emergency managers
Many uncertainties surround the life-cycle performance of infrastructure systems. Each requires accurate risk assessment and critical decision making to account for them and manage increasing hazards properly. We are on the cusp of significant changes in climate, and the technology we develop and use impacts everything from recovery scheduling of networked infrastructures to the use of new high-performance cement-based composite material. Creating infrastructure with sustainability and resilience is the focus going into the next decade.
1. Lounis, Zoubir., and McAllister, Therese P., 'Risk-Based Decision Making for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure Systems." ASCE | Library, September, 2016. https://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/(asce)st.1943-541x.0001545
2. "Fourth National Climate Assessment," Vol. II, 2018. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/chapter/2/
3. Stillwell, Kate. "Resilience: A Rallying Cry We Can Amplify." STRUCTURE magazine, November, 2019. https://www.structuremag.org/?p=15176