Industrial Doctorate Centre: Urban Sustainability and Resilience

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Civil Environmental and Geomatic Eng


Pressure on urban spaces is increasing year on year. At the start of the nineteenth century 3% of the world's population lived in cities, after 2007 more than 50% will do so. The trend presents us with a number of difficult challenges resulting from climate change, population growth, disease and terrorism that, if not met, forebode dreadful consequences for health, social cohesion and economic stability:How to manage and adapt our current urban space and infrastructure to cope with the loading and threats placed on and against them?How to design, engineer, expand and maintain the new class of eco-cities?How to promote these ideas to governments, industry and investment funds?The UK is vulnerable to natural and technological disasters both within its borders and elsewhere in the world. The principal natural disasters affecting the nation are windstorms and floods (both river and coastal), both of which have triggered major losses in recent years. In January 1990, damage due to Winter Storm Daria cost insurers 3.37 billion, making it the UK's most expensive weather event, while in 2007 floods inundated 48,000 homes and 7,300 businesses and cost insurers 3 billion. Biological and technological disasters also have major cost implications, with losses associated with the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak reaching 8 billion, and the total cost of the 2006 Buncefield explosion set at 1 billion. Because of the London reinsurance market's (and particularly Lloyd's) central role in reinsuring against natural catastrophes all over the world, the country is also vulnerable to major disasters abroad. For example, the UK reinsurance market's share of the US$60 billion insured losses from Hurricane Katrina (New Orleans) contributed to the country's worst trade deficit on record in August 2005. Looking ahead, by 2080, UK flood losses could be as high as 22 billion, 15 times higher than they are today, while a predicted 20 percent rise in the more powerful winter storms, could see a substantial increase in wind-related losses. On the technological front, the cost to the UK economy of an H5N1 pandemic could be a GDP reduction of five percent or more, while the total cost of a major nuclear accident has been estimated at somewhere between 83 billion and 5.4 trillion. The UK is now firmly within an international marketplace: vulnerabilities arise not only from events and trends within the UK, but also from economic and environmental disasters abroad. Our strongly developed, sophisticated and consumer-focussed urban society has become increasingly complex. Ordinary people, businesses and public services rely upon a deep hierarchy of inter-dependent supply chains and industries in order to function in the way that they do. With this increased complexity has come increased risk and vulnerability. This vulnerability is, in part, exacerbated by population density in urban conglomerations and the resultant pressure upon space. The programme focuses upon two key themes: sustainability and resilience. Sustainability addresses the maintenance of an ecological system (atmosphere, water, the food chain) whilst at the same time enabling human development of the urban environment and the surrounding hinterland. Resilience is a newer concept dealing with the issue of how to mitigate the effects of environmental disasters and terrorism, incorporating seismic and volcanic hazard (earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides), flood risk, the spread and control of disease (water, air and animal borne), security and situational awareness. This includes four key ideas: rapidity (how rapidly a response can be coordinated and put into effect), resourcefulness (the importance of having multiple ways of tackling a problem), redundancy (to better absorb the effect of disasters, over-engineering to protect against failure of system components) and robustness (simple robust engineering: building stuff that stands up irrespective of what is thrown at it.


10 25 50