Engineers driving change: where do we start?

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is holding its International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI), in Los Angeles, California, November 6-9 2019.

The event is being hosted by the ASCE Sustainability Committee with the aim of ‘Leading resilient communities through the 21st Century’. Given the global implications of burgeoning urbanisation and the stewardship of existing and new public infrastructure, ICSI 2019 will focus on what is known and what is not known about the cities of the future.

Structured to foster interactive discussion, the conference will feature a keynote by Dr Jared Diamond as well as over half a dozen case studies and workshops focusing on recent innovations and achievements from cities around the U.S. and the world.

Mark R Norton, Conference Chair, says in his Message “Our intended audience is not just the civil engineers but our partners to engineers such as practitioners, owners, construction managers, financial experts, technology developers and government decision makers who work together to create better more integrated multi-beneficial projects. Recognising the changes and challenges that we face moving through the 21st Century, programme topics will include on a broad range of cross cutting issues such as resilience and disaster recovery; disruptive technologies and practices; climate change and extreme events; and infrastructure’s social impacts, opportunities and responsibilities.”

Caroline Field, Arup, is participating in the ASCE conference and representing the Resilience Shift in a number of sessions including the ‘Future world vision leadership summit’ (led by Seth Schultz) on Wednesday 6 November, an afternoon panel session on standards on Friday 8 November, and the panel session on Saturday morning on resilience and sustainability.

Caroline is particularly well placed to participate in Friday’s panel on resilience standards as she was Chair of the committee that developed the British Standard for City Resilience. This session will include a panel discussion followed by group activities around resilient solutions including what does good look like, how do we measure it, and how do we upscale it.

She is also participating in the panel on Saturday 9 November on resilience and sustainability. This is part of a programme of work that it is hoped will result in further guidance to ASCE members. This is under her remit as Co-Chair of the ASCE Infrastructure Resilience Division (IRD) SPEED Committee.

Caroline is also representing the Resilience Shift at the Future world vision leadership summit, convened by Seth Schultz of Urban Breakthroughs, that kicks off the conference on Wednesday 6 November and aims to bridge the gap between urban infrastructure climate adaptation and resilience.

More about the Future world vision leadership summit:

The global population will face unprecedented challenges over the next 50 years, from rising seas to more frequent extreme weather events, all of which will happen against a backdrop of significant demographic changes and technology advances. These global trends are already posing well-documented challenges. For instance, the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card estimates between 2016 and 2025, the U.S. alone will underinvest in its infrastructure by $2 trillion.

Practical solutions are needed in order to adapt our infrastructure, close the resilience gap, and breakdown barriers to action. While there has been some progress in developing favourable environmental, economic, and social policy to lessen the impacts of the changing climate, we need a larger scale commitment among stakeholders to adapt and incorporate sustainability into our infrastructure.  This is particularly evident in large and rapidly growing cities around the world.

So how do we better ensure principles of sustainability and measures of resilience are incorporated into decision-making? As a first step, we must bring together a cross-section of experts to agree on a series of priorities and drive the implementation of new tools and standards that enable future-oriented solutions.

The ASCE Foundation and ASCE with their more than 150,000 engineering professionals from around the world will convene this small, cross-cutting working group of action-oriented global leaders for a summit to envision the future, identify the biggest gaps to infrastructure climate adaptation and resilience, and to engineer and develop clear, actionable plans to bridge these gaps.

More specifically, this “Future World Vison Leadership Summit” taking place immediately before the 2019 International Conference of Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) in Los Angeles in early November 2019 will bring together infrastructure pioneers and global leaders to:

– Identify, prioritize and better understand the gaps and barriers for the planning, designing, building, maintaining and operating of sustainable and resilient infrastructure now and in the future;

– Cultivate and unlock the full potential of untapped partnerships and funding investments designed to reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, create sustainable and resilient infrastructure, and effect social change; and,

– Understand and identify practical plans of action and resources for implementing strategies that influence realistic short-term goals and also have measure, long-term effects.

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