Resilient urban design for climate risk mitigation
Urban climate adaptation isn't just about finding new solutions for new problems. In many cities, the biggest threat posed by planetary warming is the exacerbation of age-old risks and inequities.
Are cities using climate data to inform urban planning and development decisions? How can data help cities to futureproof built assets against extreme weather events? And how can projects under construction reduce their vulnerability to changing weather patterns? During our recent webinar Resilient urban design for climate risk mitigation, you asked us. Here, our expert panellists respond.
World Built Environment Forum
16 June 2021
Our expert panel:
David Baxter, CEO, Mitig8 Risk Management
Rob Blevins, Founder and Senior Meteorologist, METCON
Crystal Egger, President, Monarch Weather Consulting
Rob Blevins: Yes, we can use data to assess exposure to climate change by combining projections of future temperature, rainfall, wildfires and other events. These assessments allow us to measure the risk to assets and their surrounding environment. This can be done at various spatial resolutions, from whole portfolio level, down to individual assets, and across flexible timeframes and various climate scenarios. City policymakers are increasingly using weather and climate data in their planning procedures, and demanding more and more engineering and statistical-type answers. Some cities are even hiring consultants to help with specific issues or projects where in-depth knowledge of climate behavior is important to future planning and construction. Resilient infrastructure requires the application of accurate weather and climate data, which can answer difficult questions and navigate planners through political and budgetary difficulties.
Rising sea levels and climate related extreme weather events pose an existential risk to some of the world’s most economically and strategically important cities. How does the risk profile of natural hazards change from region to region, and where are the dangers most pronounced? What can policymakers, businesses and built environment professionals do to future-proof urban centres accordingly?
Crystal Egger: Data on weather patterns can be presented in a probabilistic way, allowing project leaders to use the weather intuitively in their decision-making processes. Analyses of current conditions can be provided easily. Longer-range outlooks, tailored to highly specific conditions, allow better planning of activity start and end times, which can greatly improve project efficiencies. Hourly data can be used to improve probabilistic planning and the same criteria used for probabilistic planning can be used to forecast days and weeks in advance. Weather impact analyses can encourage greater confidence among project partners in the decisions taken. Key to any infrastructure resilience plan is an understanding of climate-related risk – flood plains are not ideal locations for new construction projects, for instance. In turn, already built assets can be adapted and strengthened to better cope with climate impacts as they materialise. When developing infrastructure, it is always wise to be mindful of impacts elsewhere – the potential flood risk resulting from the expansion of paved surfaces is one obvious example.
Long-range weather outlooks allow for the better planning of project activity start and end times – which can greatly improve efficiencies.
David Baxter: Much depends on the type of construction, but hopefully I can cite some useful examples. The design of temporary works is critical to building resilience against changing weather patterns. Designers should look to incorporate permanent systems in exchange for temporary supports where possible. Where not possible, temporary methods must be designed for enhanced resilience. In locations where they are necessary, Hurricane Preparedness Plans should be thoroughly reviewed, with areas of improvement identified and promptly acted upon. Permanent flood gates should be installed early to protect tunnels and shafts. Modular building can reduce the exposure of interiors to extreme weather. And consider podium structures instead of basements, which are more prone to flooding – this should reduce the need for mass excavations. Finally, having good weather data and other predictive information will be ensure you are better prepared for shock events.