A central platform to exchange best practices and ideas guiding the infrastructure and urban development industry in its transformation, and helping it to address its key challenges.

Disaster Resilience

Lighthouse on shore in the middle of giant waves

Introduction to the Working Group on Disaster Resilience

by Monica Altamirano, Specialist in Public-Private Partnerships, Deltares, Netherlands; and

Arjen Hydra, Senior Adviser Waterways, Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, Netherlands 

The built environment is facing an increasing number of natural and man-made threats, ranging from heavy-weather events to cyberattacks. Consider the following challenges:

  • Three times as many disasters were reported in 2015 as in 1980
  • About 94% of loss-related natural catastrophes in 2015 were weather-related events
  • 295 cyberattacks against US critical infrastructure facilities were reported in 2015 by the US Department of Homeland Security

Such challenges are sure to increase in the future. Hence the compelling need for the engineering and construction industry to create resilient infrastructure and housing to withstand disruption, absorb disturbance, act effectively in a crisis and recover quickly afterwards. This requires collaboration between the public and private sectors, involves both technical and social systems and needs to anticipate changing (climatological) conditions, changing societal needs and growth of economies and the build environment over time.

In developed countries, a major task for the industry is to refurbish or replace ageing infrastructure. Many of these assets (bridges, ports, navigation locks, dams) are part of critical infrastructure, were designed in the early 20th century, and relate to economic and societal dependencies that have never stopped growing. For developing economies, the challenges may even be bigger. Statistics show that many are located in regions prone to natural disasters and these countries often lack the needed resources to rebound. People are hurt more severely, effects last longer and growth of prosperity can stall long term.

The World Economic Forum security outlook in January 2017 shows that the number one threat for people in the world, even considering all the current socio-political turmoil, is still extreme weather. This is a big world problem, but one the engineering and construction industry can actually address. This would be rewarding in many ways, not the least of which for the sector itself, literally. Here lies an opportunity to join forces and make a notable difference. A group of expert practitioners took a step forward by contributing ideas. Let’s work together to make this difference achievable.

Please access all contribution of the Working Group on Disaster Resilience here.