Enhancing Urban Resilience: The Role of Online Decision Support Models

Enhancing Urban Resilience: The Role of Online Decision Support Models

Aoife Doyle (Technological University Dublin, Ireland & Future Analytics Consulting, Ireland), William Hynes (Future Analytics Consulting, Ireland) and Stephen M. Purcell (Future Analytics Consulting, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4018-3.ch011


‘Urban resilience' is a ‘fuzzy' concept which has gained increasing public, political, and academic interest over the past two decades. Yet, despite the increasing ubiquity of the resilience concept, its exact meaning and measurement remains contested. In particular, there remains ongoing debate around how the concept can be operationalised within planning policy and practice This chapter presents updated findings from two EU funded projects - HARMONISE and RESILENS - which both explored the development of e-tools and processes to equip urban planners with capabilities to assess and enhance the resilience of existing and future urban development projects. To date, the widespread development and optimisation of such tools have been relatively limited in practice due to a poor understanding of resilience as a concept, and differing conceptualisations of 'resilience' across borders, disciplines, and professions. This chapter discusses key issues and opportunities in this respect and seeks to chart a pathway forward for more holistic, integrated approaches to urban resilience enhancement.
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1. Introduction

Globally, the share of the population residing in cities has grown substantially over the past six decades. Today, for the first time in human history, every second citizen lives an urban settlement (United Nations, 2012). This rapid expansion of cities is exposing a larger number of people and critical infrastructures to the threat of disasters and crisis events and poses additional challenges for the design, planning and management of urban areas. Indeed, the very features that make cities feasible and desirable—their architectural structures, population concentrations, places of assembly, and interconnected infrastructure systems—also put them at high risk to floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks (Godschalk, 2003).

More recently, the frequency, severity and impact of various crises and disasters on urban areas have channelled attention to focus on vulnerable physical assets within cities. In particular, attention has been focused on Critical Infrastructure (CI) and systems, where the removal or suspension of these assets from normal service would significantly affect public safety, security, economic activity, social functioning or environmental quality (Gordon & Dion, 2008).

Within this context, the enhancement of urban security and resilience has become a far more urgent and significant task, necessitating more innovative and integrated approaches to urban planning and development. These events have also been catalytic in advancing the political prioritisation of enhanced security and risk management strategies for many European cities, and led to calls for new approaches and mechanisms for preparing, responding to and recovering from all manner of disruptive events. Indeed, International agreements in three post-2015 agendas - the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – all call for resilience.

Within the context of urban planning, ‘resilience’ has entered into discourse with different orientations. Although the focus has traditionally been placed on environmental issues (in particular the reduction or mitigation of environmental risks such as earthquakes, floods, and global warming), there has been a rather significant increase of the fields where the concept is used. The growing ubiquity of the concept has also inevitably led to problems of certainty and clarity around what sense and meaning the concept actually assumes in urban planning discourses, as well as in its translation into planning policy and practice. Thus, there remains debate around how ‘resilience’ can be best operationalised within planning – with scholars asking, for example, what exactly does it mean to be resilient within an urban context (Desouza et al., 2012)?

This chapter is specifically concerned with the resilience of large scale urban built infrastructure – both critical and non-critical. It seeks to explore how urban decision makers, specifically planners, can be best supported in seeking to enhance the security and resilience of such developments. In particular, the chapter focuses on the potential role technology can play in augmenting the role of urban planning in meeting this important objective. In doing so, the chapter presents updated findings from two large scale EU funded research projects – HARMONISE and RESILENS (see Doyle et al., 2017 for earlier findings). Both projects are broadly concerned with the development of e-tools and processes to equip urban decision makers with the capabilities and relevant knowledge to enhance the resilience of existing and future urban development projects. As such, the chapter first presents some of the key challenges faced by urban decision makers in seeking to operationalise the resilience concept in practice; it then focuses on the subsequent development and refinement of the HARMONISE and RESILENS concepts. The chapter concludes with some emerging lessons around operationalising ‘resilience’ for the planning, development and operation of large scale urban built infrastructure, and the implications of such lessons for urban e-planning.

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