Resilient Infrastructure: Working 'with' Nature

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

Resilient infrastructure incorporates both design and construction features that will enable construction to withstand or recover from natural disasters. Last year’s back to back adverse natural disasters destroyed infrastructure globally.  There were 83 major natural and weather-related disasters worldwide. The world has reached a cumulative estimated $1.245 trillion in damages to infrastructure and property in 2017.

Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, which will place greater pressures on infrastructures such as transport networks and drainage systems. These factors are driving the need for resilient infrastructure, which maintains its function in terms of providing transportation and communication services in the face of extreme weather events. Incorporating resilient infrastructure may entail moving from the traditional ‘design against nature’ to a more adaptable ‘design with nature’ form of the building. Governments and the private sector must join together to develop proactive strategies that incorporate comprehensive resilience best practices into the design, construction, financing, and operations and maintenance of all future infrastructure projects.

Many changes to key engineering principles from the past 200 years need to be made, particularly in the area of drainage. The flooding events in the US and Ireland during 2017 shows the devastation the failure of drainage infrastructure has. The future focus will be less on the traditional approach of trying to drain urban spaces as quickly as possible and instead will allow drainage systems to operate within the urban center, then slowly empty after the rainfall event and transitioning plazas back to a recreational function.

Unpredictable future weather anomalies require a combination of traditional and new engineering designs to prevent the future loss of life and damage. We must minimize future weather destruction, no matter what weather outcomes turn out to be. Resilient infrastructure, which lowers extreme weather effects, will require engineers to think outside of the box for solutions.

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