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Last edited 27 Apr 2022
6 principles to help engineers create resilient infrastructure
Engineers must ensure that what we build can withstand the stresses that are coming our way. Author explains what the principles are, their objectives, the action required, and their implications for the industry and the planet.
With that in mind, the ICE’s resilient infrastructure community is focused on ensuring engineering interventions not only tackle immediate needs, but also reduce further climate change and mitigate its effects.
We convened an expert group for an online discussion on the UNDRR’s freshly drafted principles for resilient infrastructure.
Abhilash Panda, deputy chief of intergovernmental processes, interagency cooperation, and partnerships at the UNDRR, and now member of the ICE resilience community, explained that in the fast-changing climate we live in, infrastructure must be able to absorb, react, recover and transform in the event of an emergency.
The global organisation has developed its principles to build awareness of the need for resilience, form a basis for planning and delivering the right kind of projects, and boost policy and investment in this area.
It also set out an ambition that all infrastructure interventions should work towards the concept of ‘net resilience gain’, since resilience is a critical pillar to support the more commonly cited net zero carbon target.
 The six principles
 Resilient infrastructure must be able to adaptively transform
- Fail safely,
- adapt beyond its primary purpose,
- operate according to unforeseen human intervention, and
- handle the variability of a changing environment.
 Resilient infrastructure must be environmentally integrated
The second principle dictates infrastructure must be environmentally integrated to qualify as resilient.
 Resilient infrastructure must be protected by design
The fourth principle is social engagement. Resilient infrastructure must boost people’s awareness of how best to use it considering present and future challenges.
This enables the development of the best hazard-response possible.
 Resilient infrastructure will require continuous learning
The sixth and final principle set out by the UNDRR is continuous learning.
 A shift in thinking
There can be a tendency to think we have enough on our plate trying to decarbonise without worrying about resilience – or to feel that factoring in climate change means admitting defeat against it – but we must not fall into these traps.
Our job is changing and growing so it is an exciting place to be.
The UNDRR’s six principles were put out to over 100 governments from around the world at the end of March and are in the process of being agreed as a clear global definition of resilient infrastructure.
The UNDRR then hopes that in time the principles will guide formation of a global standard in delivering resilient infrastructure, allowing people at all levels of influence to work in line with this shared goal.
This could hugely help drive the agenda forward by communicating in clear terms with investors and policy makers about the way in which infrastructure would perform in the event of greater climate change.
These six principles form an incredibly useful framework for us as engineers to evaluate our work and try to make sure we are creating infrastructure that will not only reduce man’s impact on the environment but help us to cope with the climate changes we know are coming.
Although there is a critical role for policy makers, investors, and clients, we, as engineers, can drive this agenda. If we can create exemplar projects in line with the UNDRR’s principles, we can show the world just what can be achieved.
- BREEAM Adaptation to climate change.
- BREEAM Designing for durability and resilience.
- Building back better with BREEAM.
- Building Back Better: Resilience
- Building flood resilience.
- Business resilience.
- Climate resilient places.
- Designing resilient cities: a guide to good practice (EP 103).
- Engineering in the 21st century.
- Engineering resilience to human threats.
- Environmental plan for building design and construction.
- Flood resilience.
- Future proofing construction.
- Hurricane design considerations.
- Managing and responding to disaster.
- Pressing pause to avoid errors.
- Property flood resilience.
- Re-evaluating the design life of buildings.
- Resilient infrastructure diversity and equity scorecard.
- Risk assessment.
- Sustainability in building design and construction.
- Two steps towards a more resilient world.
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