Home' Infrastructure Australia : Infrastructure Australia 2011 Contents 50 INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA APRIL 2011
Build resilience into infrastructure, engineers tell UK
An alliance in the UK repre-
senting nearly half a million
engineers has called for infra-
structure to be more resilient
to climate change in a report to govern-
ment released earlier this year.
e report Infrastructure, engineering
and climate change adaptation -- Ensuring
ser vices in an uncertain future examines
vulnerabilities in energy, transport, com-
munications and water systems. It was
written by the Engineering the Future
Alliance and prepared from the perspec-
tive of the engineering profession, with
particular input from the Institution of
Engineering and Technology, the Insti-
tution of Civil Engineers, the Institution
of Chemical Engineers, the Institution
of Mechanical Engineers and the Royal
Academy of Engineering. The alliance
presented the report to the UK govern-
ment s chief scienti c adviser Professor Sir
John Beddington at a launch event hosted
by the UK Institution of Engineering and
Technology in London.
UK minister of the environment and
responsible for adapting to climate change
Lord Henley wrote in his foreword: "We
need an infrastructure system that is more
resilient to climate change. is will reduce
the risk of economic disruption to the coun-
try and enable the opportunities from well-
adapted infrastructure to be maximised."
e UK government released a Na-
tional Infrastructure Plan last year un-
derlining the importance of maintaining
its transport, water and energy systems in
the face of climate impacts.
e report by Engineering the Future
sets out how innovation and new engi-
neering approaches can boost climate
resilience. It noted the potential for mas-
sive infrastructure failure and examined
vulnerabilities in di erent infrastructure
sectors. It considered vulnerabilities that
a ect the infrastructure system as a whole
and which arise as a result of interdepen-
dencies between di erent sectors.
e report noted that infrastructure
is becoming more interdependent. For
example, energy systems rely more on
ICT, and the electri cation of transport
systems mean transport is more reliant
on the grid. To overcome this problem,
the report said the engineering profession
must use "systems thinking to plan, design
and maintain infrastructure".
"Systems resilience, rather than sector
resilience, is required to adapt to climate
change. Current silos and boundaries must
be broken down by culture and any other
available levers," the report concluded.
Lord Browne of Madingley, president
of the Royal Academy of Engineering,
wrote in his foreword: "A holistic approach
to the development and protection of
infrastructure is es sential, with an aware -
ness of where failure in one sector can
lead to a cascade of failures elsewhere.
An integrated approach to planning and
managing infrastructure development is
key. Government should take a systems
approach to the processes of planning
One of 20 ndings in the report focuses
on how the public may also have to adjust
its expectations regarding the continuity
e report noted that it was unlikely
society will be willing to pay the increas-
ing costs of "always on" services, so a
national debate would be needed on the
balance between acceptable levels of dis-
ruption verses higher costs.
"Increased resilience comes at a cost,
so given that there are limits on the extent
to which government and the public are
likely to be willing to pay for resilience,
failures cannot be avoided completely," the
report concluded. "As the climate changes
and infrastructure systems are exposed to
di erent and more extreme conditions,
it is highly likely that degradation and
interruption of vital services will occur
at certain times. erefore, there is a need
to limit the consequences of failure and
accelerate restoration capabilities, both
through engineering solutions and by
managing consumer expectations."
e report stated that resilient com-
munities were needed as well as resilient
infrastructure and that communicating
to the public the limits on resilience, and
the need to modify demand on the infra-
structure, is a major challenge.
Read the report at http://bit.ly/dNa7RJ.
The government aims to publish a re-
sponse on adapting national infrastruc-
ture in the near future.
is is an edited version of an article
published in the February/March 2011
issue of Engineering World.
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