By 2050 world population will reach 9.6 trillion inhabitants and 66% of this growth will take place in cities of the developed world that will be the home of 6 billion citizens.
Population will have to cohabitate with the evolution of urban infrastructures and technology and cities as well citizens will have to be ready to face social, economic and environmental risks.
Just as a significant issue, it must be pointed out that, as EM-DAT sources underline, between years 2000 and 2014 $1.88 trillion worth of damage was caused by adverse natural phenomena.
Within such a context, measures to reduce predictable and specific risks play a highly relevant role in urban planning.
Paths of resilience
SUSTAINABILITY+RESILIENCE=NEW URBAN PLANNING
Resilience is a term born during the 70’s in the ecology field. In relation to our case, resilience is the cities’ capability to respond, to resist, to keep on working and to relief under stress and collapse circumstances.
The driver of planning based upon resilience focuses on strengthening cities touched by climate change alterations and other global threats.
A resilience and planning strategy includes new steps towards the improvement of public and private building taking care of energy efficiency, resistance to climate change as well as adapting transportation, telecommunications, water and energy supply infrastructures against earthquakes, floods and sea level rise.
Today, more than ever, Public Administration must invest efficiently in sustainable and resilient infrastructures.
Cities have become complex systems constantly adapting to changing circumstances.
Just having on account the dimensions for achieving sustainable excellence (economic, social and environmental, besides the technical ones) has proved to be insufficient. New urban developments must keep in mind adaptation to climate change and reduction of natural disasters, aiming to prevent or mitigate the loss of essential assets under specific circumstances.
Therefore, it is not just a question of constructing more sustainable or more solid infrastructures. It has become a matter of managing the interaction of infrastructures with the city and with its inhabitants to become more resilient.
A change of mentality is needed. Urban planning must be considered in different dimensions: economic (considering the high costs for not having resilient infrastructures), social (health, wealth, culture and leisure), infrastructures and environmental (energy, water and communications).
Promoting resilience within these dimensions minimizes risks and reduces costs in a long term; the costs of constructing resilient structures are lower and more profitable, as well as, more efficient and more reliable than adapting the existing ones. United Nations has published a study named “Making resilient cities” that can be used as an example.
New York: An exemplary initiative to build up a resilient city
The effects of hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States were severe, even worst in the Lower Manhattan area. Also, within the area comprehended between the Hudson River and the East River, Sandy left 50 people dead, 300.000 damaged homes, without any sort of basic supply for several days, and $19 billion worth of damage. Affected hospitals had to evacuate their patients and the New York stock exchange market closed down for two days causing a world financial shock.
Since then, the city of New York has deployed a series of initiatives to improve the city’s resilience. One of these, known as the Big-U had as its main goal to implement a conceptual plan to develop a green area with public spaces, cycling roads, cultural centers as a barrier against floods and hurricanes.
It did not just stop there and currently the process continues in order to stablish specific projects in the damaged area to empower coastal protections, public buildings and homes.
Recently the city took a step beyond its own future, when its mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced an integral sustainability and resilience planning, based upon its current plans, with the idea to develop and empower them, denominated OneNewYork. This formula broadens New York’s planning strategy to citizens’ participation, looking forward to having a more sustainable, more resilient and more equal city, also tending to eliminate dumps.