Improving quality of life with urban resilience

Arcadis Pty Ltd

By Piet Dircke, Global Leader – Water Management
Wednesday, 31 July, 2019



Improving quality of life with urban resilience

From flooding to cybercrime and from earthquakes to terrorism, in today’s uncertain world, resilience is more important than ever. Resilience is the ability to overcome shocks and stresses, to cope with uncertainty and to be prepared for whatever challenges the future brings.

In a world that is increasingly urban — with buildings and other assets being operated as part of the inter-related and inter-dependent systems that keep society running smoothly — resilience is an essential quality to have.

Where to start?

I believe city officials, business leaders, investors, transportation and utilities operators and other asset owners should place resilience at the heart of any planning process. But I also know that while many of these decision-makers understand the need to make their assets and cities more resilient, they also struggle to identify concrete steps they can take to do so. In order to get started, they need answers to important questions:

  • Where and when should we invest in resilience?
  • Where can resilience investments add the most value?
  • How can we reap both short- and long-term benefits?
  • How can we move from risk identification to starting actionable projects?

Holistic thinking is the key

Resilience is my passion. I’ve spent my entire career working in cities to make them better equipped to deal with climate change, extreme weather and rising sea levels. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in that time is that true resilience comes from connecting the dots in urban environments.

What I mean is this. If a business leader comes to me asking how she can best protect her data centre from the threat of flooding, and ensure business continuity, part of my job is to get her to understand that merely erecting high walls around her offices won’t do the trick. Focusing only on preventing a specific building asset from flooding is unlikely to ensure business continuity, because if disaster strikes, a whole host of issues may well come into play. For instance, if the city is flooded, how will her workers make it into the office? Will the area around her data centre be safe enough for her workers, even if they can travel to the office? Will there be electricity coming to her facility?

In order to achieve the goal of ensuring business continuity, the business leader in this hypothetical will need to engage with all stakeholders (the local government, employees, other business leaders and citizens living near her facility) to make her city resilient. But this is easier said than done.

Moving from strategy to implementation

Although resilience is often framed within the context of disaster or distress, at Arcadis we believe that resilience provides an overwhelmingly positive opportunity for the world. By embracing a resilient approach, national, regional and city administrations can improve quality of life for citizens, while business leaders, shareholders and stakeholders can improve not only their bottom lines but also the lives of those in the communities around them. But the challenges we’re facing are only getting bigger and if we don’t prepare for what the future holds, we will regret it. The time for action is now, but too few organisations have taken up this call.

In our latest paper, ‘The business case for resilience’, we examine resilience from the perspective of cities, industries, utility companies and mobility operators. We also delve into digital and financial resilience. Throughout the paper we grapple with the myriad issues that are preventing action and we demonstrate how we help our clients overcome these issues and implement real projects that make a difference.

Ultimately, we are excited by the many opportunities that being resilient brings to improve quality of life and we look forward to exploring these opportunities with you.

You can read the full paper here.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/francesco chiesa

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