The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) held a very successful workshop over the past couple of days. It's goal was to provide citizens from Canada, Mexico and the USA, NGOs, government and academics to come together to discuss how individual communities across North America are tackling environmental challenges and how policymakers are working to support their efforts.
I will shortly post some of the key findings and photos from the workshop facilitated by The Moment. The final output of the session will be a "book" of resilience guidelines, strategies and approaches. You should also be able to find them posted on http://www.facebook.com/CECconnect sometime later this week.
What stood out most in my mind about this workshop was the thoughtfulness of the participants, and the very high quality of the presentations, and most importantly, the high quality of resilience strategies and approaches developed by the "expert" work groups over the two days.
As a follow up to the last blog (of Feb 14, 2012 ) where I set out six key approaches resilience capacity building that I would be talking about at my Ryerson University Lecture (March 1st 2012), instead of reprising my lecture in this blog, I have uploaded the Future Proofing Cities Toolkit that I distributed at the end of my presentation. This toolkit explores six approaches to building resilience capacity in cities, as well as provides some background resources. You can find the FPC Toolkit on the ResilientCity.org website in the Resilience section or by clicking FPC Toolkit.
Please let me know what you think of the toolkit. When we created it we saw it as a great resource for facilitating resilience workshops and discussions.
In preparation for a lecture I will be giving at Ryerson University’s Architecture School (on March 1st at 6:00pm), I have spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to structure presentation to provide listeners with a good mental map for the complexity that is urban resilience. One of the most interesting problems in exploring resilience is that it is an emergent phenomenon, a gestalt, rather than a linear, directly causal phenomenon. The topic of the lecture is Future Proofing Cities; Planning and Designing for Future Resilience. Below you will find a skeleton outline of the key concepts that I will be exploring. You will notice that the Whats and the Hows of building resilience capacity are outlined, but not the Hows. I plan to explore the Hows In the lecture (and in future blogs):
1. Planning for Growth and Density: Why Growth? The third great migration of rural populations (see Doug Sanders book Arrival Cities, for more on this) to cities around the world, as well as the ongoing overall growth of global population, will both put pressures on many cities to grow, but in doing so will also provide the engine for positive economic growth and urban development. It will therefore be important for cities to be able to respond positively to this pressure. Why Density? Increasing density is a very effective strategy to lower per capita costs of infrastructure capital and operating costs, as well as an important way of reducing per capita use of all types of energy – including energy for transportation, and heating and cooling of buildings (see Edward Glaeser’s book, Triumph of The City for more on this). Thus, increasing density increases a city’s resilience to future shocks and stresses associated with future energy price increases associated with either peak oil or increasing demands from developing nations.
2. Energy Performance: Why? The energy performance of various components of a city’s infrastructure and building fabric is a key determinant in a city’s resilience capacity. Reducing a city’s per capita energy consumption is an important means of reducing the future impact of any shocks or stresses associated with rising future energy costs. This is an extension of category 1.
3. Local Food Production: Why? Northern cities are very dependent on food supply transported great distances by truck from the Southern cities. Future energy price increases will therefore directly impact the cost of food – both as a result of the increasing cost to make the food because of agriculture’s heavy reliance on oil for all aspects of the food growing cycle, but also as result of the cost to transport food from south to north (see more on this in Jeff Rubin’s book, Your World Is About to Get A Whole Lot Smaller). Moreover, potential disruptions in food production as a result of climate change or sharp increases in energy could potentially disrupt the supply of food to cities. Therefore, developing means of producing food locally is an important resilience capacity building strategy.
4. Modularization and Redundancy of Key Infrastructure Systems: Why? Key infrastructure systems such as power systems, water systems, sewage waste processing systems, and communications systems are all vital to the healthy functioning of a city. The serious incapacitation or failure of any one of these systems would have both serious health and economic consequences. However, most of our important infrastructure systems are currently both at the end of their useful service life (with the exception of our communications systems), and in their current configurations and use, have almost no redundancy and no modularization (i.e., they are not independent enough from other components in case of failure.) Therefore, any significant damage to one part of our key infrastructure systems has the potential to create cascading failures through its adjacent parts. The best example of this was the North Eastern power outage in the summer of 2003. Therefore, re-developing our key infrastructure systems to provide for both modularity and redundancy will be key to building resilience capacity in or cities.
5. Integrated Metabolism: Why? Integrated metabolism refers to the integration of the infrastructures that provide metabolic service to a city, including its water system, its energy system, its food system, and its sewage system. Contemporary cities use infrastructure systems conceived of and in some cases implemented in the 19th Century. Power, water, food and waste infrastructure systems are all separate, and do not take advantage of the inherent natural biological and energy connections between them. The purpose of integrating these systems is to reduce the per capita inputs required to produce the same amounts of electrical power, potable water, and, and also reduce the per capita amount of non-usable organic waste. This would be accomplished by linking all of these systems together in modular networks that would allow that water used in the production and consumption of food to be reclaimed from sewage, that power could be generated from the digestion of waste, and that byproducts of this cycle would feed back into the food production as a source of nutrients. This sort of integrated infrastructure is scalable, modular, and could provide for the necessary independence in case of catastrophic failure or any part of the network.
6. Infrastructure and Building Fabric “Hardening”: Why? Well respected Canadian climatologist Professor Gordon McBean of the University of Western Ontario recently noted that as a result of atmospheric warming, over the next 20 to 30 years we could expect that 20 year storm events would become 2 year storm events. In Toronto we could expect to see more ice storms and more rains that would produce flash flooding. Also, the warming trends suggest a Northerly migration of tornado zones from the south and mid western USA that would increase the likelihood of tornado events in southern Canada. The warming trend, which he indicates is traceable to the “CO2 signal” will continue as long as CO2 levels continue to rise – which they are predicted to do for the next 50 years. Therefore, it will be important to develop strategies to increase the “hardness” and durability of our key infrastructure and building assets in the face of the increasing frequency and intensity of weather events.
It’s that time of year again when the contributors to ResilientCity.org start thinking about the next Design Ideas Competition. This year we have been thinking about the importance of “arrival cities” and how they could contribute to the future resilience of cities around the world.
The term “arrival city” was coined by Doug Saunders, in his new book of the same name. Through the eyes of individuals who are part of the migrations, Saunders’ book explores the realities of arrival cities and that how cities might more effectively accommodate this migration. He explains how these migrations can either be very beneficial, to both cities and the migrants, or, alternatively, if not understood and effectively accommodated, they can produce failure, hardship and potentially violence. Saunders argues that migration will not only help many western cities address the future employment problems associated with an aging demographic, but will also bring new vitality and industry to cities. But how these arrival cities are integrated into cities, and how their residents are accepted will be an important part of their potential for success or failure, and an important part of a city’s ability to either increase its resilience to future shocks and stresses.
Seen at the macro level, the “third great migration” will certainly create great stresses for cities, and potentially a number of future shocks. Building a conceptual framework for understanding the implications of the migration, and how cities can make a positive thing out of it, may be a very good focus for the next ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition.
We are thinking that we will launch the competition sometime this March. Let us know what you think. What do you think the goal of such a competition should be? To explore effective planning strategies for the migration that will increase urban resilience? To explore existing arrival city settlements and find case studies of successes? Tell us what you think.
I am often asked: “ what exactly does Resilience mean?” When I first was asked this question, a couple of years ago – when the concept of resilience was newer and less well understood – I would simply repeat our ResilientCity.org working definition, and try to work through an explanation the ideas contained in it.
However, I have changed tack.
Now when asked, “what does Resilience mean?” I simply say that Resilience is a good word to capture the idea of how to future proof our cities and their built fabric in the face of future shocks and stresses from climate change and peak oil. For some reason, this explanation seems more satisfying to most people and seems to “click” into peoples consciousness in a way that discussing a city’s “capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures…” does not.
More interestingly, the combination of those two words, “future” and “proofing”, seems to create an altogether deeper resonance than I had anticipated. I guess this should be no surprise given the fact that we are all fascinated by what the future holds for us – often morbidly so – and equally interested in the notion that we could somehow imagine making ourselves or our cities proof against the future.
But does this shorthand metaphor bear up under the responsibility that it seems to imply? Can we really increase the resilience of our cities to the point where we have “future proofed” them? Any credible historian or political scientist would of course argue that such an idea was shear nonsense, that the world is far too complex, and the number of possible future scenarios for any city far too vast to reasonably imagine that the notion of “future proofing” was anything more than hyperbole.
And yet, if the notion of future proofing is seen as an ongoing process, rather than a definitive end result, then maybe the notion has more substance. The acts of “future proofing” may not lead to a complete “proofing”, but the actions involved could indeed reduce potential future shocks and impacts, and thus brings us full circle to the more robust, but maybe less resonant, concept of resilience.
So in the end, I will continue to feel reasonably comfortable using the phrase “future proofing” as the short-form for the concept of “resilience”, as long as we all agree that any deeper examination would follow a path back to the idea of resilience.
This past week I had the pleasure of leading two World Café workshops at the Ontario Association of Architects Annual Conference . The purpose of the workshops was to explore how we as architects might develop creative, practical, and implementable urban planning and building design strategies that will build capacity for greater resilience in our cities, communities and neighbourhoods in order to meet the challenges of future shocks and stresses associated with Climate Change, Energy Scarcity, and Population Change.
The participants in both workshops (Thursday and Friday’s workshops) did a great job at exploring and developing ideas on how to develop resilience at for both cities and buildings. They also explored how to build leadership capacity for assisting their communities and cities in implementing planning and design strategies for increasing the capacity for resilience. (See box below with the three World Café questions explored).
World Café Questions
Question 1: Which urban design and planning strategies would be most effective for increasing the capacities of our cities to be more resilient to the future shocks and stresses associated with climate change, energy scarcity, and population growth?
Question 2: Which urban design and planning strategies would be most effective for increasing the capacities of our cities to be more resilient to the future shocks and stresses associated with climate change, energy scarcity, and population growth?
Question 3: As architectural and urban thought leaders in your communities, how might you assist your community and your city in implementing planning and design strategies for increasing the capacity for resilience to future shocks and stresses?
A number of quite insightful ideaa and strategies were developed, which I collected from the Café gallery where they had been posted at the end of the workshops. I understand that the OAA will be posting these, and I will be posting them on ResilientCity.org as well.
A number of the key strategies that I typically write and speak about emerged, such as increasing density of cities, encouraging mixed use to increase the opportunity for people to live close to where they work and encourage walking, and increasing transit capacity and transit oriented development. However, one insight emerged that I thought was quite insightful. Phil Goldsmith, a well respected expert in renewing and preserving historical buildings, remarked that all we need do to plan and design the cities and buildings is look to how they were planned an designed in the late 19th century – when oil and the automobile did not dominate the design of our cities and suburbs.
The other interesting theme in the discussion of Leadership was the concern about how to get a younger generation of architects and planners interested. One of the participants commented that once things get “scary” the younger generation will begin to pay attention, and they won’t be very happy with what the mess that the preceding had left them!
I will highlight a number of these strategies in a future blogs. Stay tuned.
After extensive deliberation of the 20 finalist entries in this years’ ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition, the Living with the Water Paradox proposal by Nok Ratanavong, Sang Ok Kim, and James Kim was selected as the winner.
The Jury was of the opinion that this entry was the most effective at integrating the key principles of urban resilience into a compelling vision for how to increase the resilience of the Fish Market and surrounding area in Sydney, Australia. Although many of the entries provided important insights and developed thoughtful ideas for increasing urban resilience, Living with the Water Paradox stood out both for its understanding of how to build resilience, and for its imaginative application of resilient planning and design principles to addressing the wider implications of Australia’s deepening ecological crisis.
The Jury was impressed by many of the key insights contained in the proposal. Chief among them was its synthesis of potential planning and design responses to the threats posed by climate change, especially flooding and drought. There have already been significant water rationing and flood events in Australia, and these disturbances are only expected to worsen in frequency and intensity as climate change progresses. Jury moderator Craig Applegath commented that the winning proposal is effective because it uses the issue of water as a starting point to grapple with the larger issues of urban resilience. “It works because it considers how disturbances to the water system will ripple throughout the city, and what can be done to prepare the city’s functions to cope with those shocks and stresses,” he said.
The proposal’s defining feature is a comprehensive, district-scale system of interventions that link water to waste, food, and energy. The system responds to the higher risk of storm surges by harvesting rainwater and surface runoff. As part of the proposed strategy, rain water is used in conjunction with desalinated water to support local decentralized food production in front yard and rooftop gardens, and for water features that enhance the appearance and function of public spaces. “As desertification continues to move into Australia’s wheat belt, this entry’s proposal to give people options for eating directly from urban plots becomes both more pressing and more attractive,” said jury member Peter Howard. The proposal calls for urban farming research into drought and flood resistant plants and growing methods through community-owned cooperatives. Waste food is returned to food production as compost, while waste methane is used to generate electricity. In order to reduce carbon dependency and prepare for a post-carbon future, electrical power supply is further augmented by micro-hydro stations as well as by small-scale solar and wind installations that support desalination, food and aquaculture production, and waste processing.
“This proposal is successful in part because it breaks with the tendency to see core functions at purely the city or regional scale,” said jury member Michael Haggerty. The jury agreed that decentralized and redundant micro facilities are likely to increase the capacity for resilience because they can help to reduce incidences of cascading failures, would not require large investments of capital or an aggregation of new resources or technologies, and carry the added benefit of being easier to maintain. Jury member Douglas Pollard added that, “although this proposal does not invent an entirely new vision, it does knit together enough small moves to make a vision that is coherent and realistic.”
While the Jury felt the proposal would have benefited from a closer examination of the strategies that could be used for adapting to other key threats, such as the rising sea level and an increase in the number and intensity of bushfires, it concluded that Living with the Water Paradox was overall the most integrated approach to building resilience as well as the most illustrative of the complexity that is emblematic of this competition.
Best Insight or Most Innovative Idea Prize: "Full of Fuel"
The Jury decided that in addition to a first price, it wished to award a prize to the most innovative insight or idea. It was clear to the members of the jury that the Full of Fuel proposal by Anthony Joyeux should be named for this prize. This entry provided some valuable clues about the future of the post-carbon urban landscape, with a focus on Lyon, France.
The members of the Jury appreciated both the pragmatic and poetic qualities of reimagining and repurposing the infrastructure of the carbon economy for a post-carbon world. Full of Fuel offered a clear and distinct perspective on the city as a place of opportunity. Peter Howard said that, “Full of Fuel offers up an interesting contrast to some of the other, more performance-based proposals. This one is predicated on a more subtle strategy of encouraging people to use the city in a different way.” Michael Haggerty added that, “reimagining gas stations as sites of community programs and action could have a really positive influence on people’s mobility and their relation to the public realm.” The Jury believed the proposal could be a generative act that kicks off the process of building cycling and pedestrian networks and creating a stronger sense of place and community. Other redeeming qualities of this proposal were its redundancy, interconnectedness, and adaptability to other contexts.
While it might have been interesting to push the idea even further to incorporate other features of the carbon-based built environment, in the end the Jury was convinced to award the prize for insight and innovation to Anthony’s proposal.
Best Video Prize
The Jury did not feel that there was a wide enough range of videos submitted to fairly determine a winner in this category. However, it was decided to award each submission an appreciation prize for their efforts. Entrants will each receive a flip video camera.
Honorable Mentions: "Manifestations for a City" and "FIH in Fairview Mall"
The Jury was of the opinion that two of the competition blogs deserved honourable mention because of the important insights they contributed to the understanding of how the capacity for resilience could be developed.
The Jury found that Digant Shah’s proposal, Manifestations for a City, for Nagpur, India, benefited from a thorough overview of the city’s historical and present-day context, a detailed approach to solid waste and waste water management, and a clear sense of the potential for resilient strategies to foster ecological restoration and urban renewal.
The Jury commented that Digant provided an excellent strategy for decentralizing infrastructure, downloading it to the neighbourhood scale in a more affordable and ecologically sound fashion, thereby regenerating the urban landscape and helping to create a stronger sense of place for Nagpur’s residents.
“This is one of the best treatments of a city’s evolution up to the present day,” said moderator Craig Applegath. Overall, the Jury felt that it might have been even stronger had it delved further into the implications of future discontinuities in Nagpur stemming from climate change and peak oil. Consideration of other urban systems, such as energy and food, and their relationship to the city’s water and waste system might have shifted the proposal away from being mainly about urban renewal, to being more about urban resilience. It might have also benefited from a more comprehensive test against existing patterns of use and water management that considered space constraints and other barriers.
Douglas Pollard noted that this proposal could readily be deployed in slums and other concentrated areas of urban poor where there are high levels of sub-economic activity and social capital for operating the water and waste management system, without significant investments of capital. “A proposal like this could have a huge impact for a very large number of people,” he said. Overall, the Jury recognized this as one of the strongest entries for its potential to improve the health and quality of life of significant numbers of people as well as its aesthetic and social contributions to human settlement.
The FIH in Fairview Mall proposal by Bronwyn White also received praise from the Jury for helping to redefine the concept of a mall. The thoroughly researched proposal won high marks for creatively adapting existing methods of local food production in a way that was both relevant and applicable to a wide spectrum of situations.
Bronwyn’s proposal shows how, contrary to conventional wisdom and patterns of development, revitalization in malls can be more substantial than simply inviting in brand-name retail megastores. The Jury found that using the mall as a focal point for uniting all of the dimensions and uses of food in one space, from production and preparation to sale and consumption, would likely have positive socioeconomic outcomes. The opportunity for the Food Innovation Hubs (FIH) idea to be scaled and adapted to other failing malls also impressed the Jury, which believed that these hubs could kick start the development of regional food networks. “By taking some technologies that already exist on the shelf, like growing food on roofs and walls, and because of its relevance to a wide spectrum of situations, this proposal deserves high marks,” said jury member Douglas Pollard.
Recognizing that people do not normally associate malls with food production, the Jury would have liked to see more elaboration of plans to conduct public outreach and redefine the property and its use, although the proposal’s Education Center was a step in the right direction. In general the members of Jury felt that the proposal did a terrific job of focusing on food, although if the focus had been widened to explore a greater heterogeneity of uses and functions, especially those that could support food production such as energy generation and grey water recovery, then it might have been even stronger. As large spaces, malls have a great potential to be converted to multi use. “Including other services like daycare, and even some residential, might help to make the mall into the truly resilient hub this proposal hopes it can become,” said Michael Haggerty.
The Jury felt that all of the finalist submissions were very thoughtful and impressive, and that, as a whole, contributed a great deal to the emerging discourse on urban resilience. Some of the key insights that emerged in the Jury’s discussion of these submissions included the following points:
• Integration: While the Jury sought entries that took an integrated approach to resilience as much as possible, it also determined that expecting complete and fully integrated solutions places a high burden on the entrants, due to the inherently iterative and emergent properties of resilience.
• Context: The Jury found that it was important for entrants to establish the context in which their proposals were made. The Jury was most impressed by those proposals that had an appreciation of the complexity of context as well as the uncertainty of future contexts in a world beset by climate change, peak oil, and other, as yet unknown challenges. Craig Applegath commented that, “this competition is akin to a test of our understanding of the world. The real complexities of the world in which we have to create form in many ways still lie beyond our ability to grapple with them.” These proposals help us get a little closer to understanding and working with that underlying complexity and uncertainty.
• Emblematic: The point of the competition was not so much about finding a winner that illustrates exactly how to ‘do’ resilience. Instead it was hoped that this competition, as a thought-provoking exercise, might accelerate or catalyze our understanding of complexity and uncertainty, with a view to finding some strategies that are resonant and are emblematic of how the process of building the capacity for urban resilience might unfold in a variety of different contexts (places, scales, forms, etc.). Therefore the Jury was attracted to proposals that were emblematic of a good strategy or set of strategies.
• Form: Whereas during the last century building design was often a process driven by function – an approach summed up by the phrase “form follows function” – resilience might require a different approach in which a series of possibilities are projected forward in time, to which space and form must be ready to adapt in order to meet the unique challenges of each possibility. One Jury member offered up the paraphrase “form follows many functions” to describe the generic, adaptable qualities that could help to define the future of resilient design.
• Scalable + Replicable: Other criteria the Jury used to assess entries were whether the proposals were replicable in other places, and whether they were scalable to fit other contexts.
Many thanks to our 2010 Jury!
Denese Bottrell Marketing Content Strategist, Thoughtful Content, Inc.
Gregory Green Documentary filmmaker, and director of End of Suburbia
Michael Haggerty Urban planner, and Co-winner of the 2009 ResilientCity.org Design Ideas Competition
Peter Howard Biologist, and Sustainability Policy Consultant Manager with the PricewaterhouseCoopers Climate Change and Sustainability practice
Douglas Pollard Senior Analyst in International Relations with CMHC International, and a member of the City of Ottawa Urban Design Review Panel
Pamela Robinson Assistant professor, Ryerson University School of Urban and Regional Planning
Jonathan Yazer Public policy writer, and co-author of “Resilient Edmonton: Why and How?”
Craig Applegath Founder of ResilientCity.org and principal at DIALOG
One of the key issues in creating capacity for greater resilience in cities is the ability for a city to develop effective strategies for improving the actual physical resilience of their building stock in the face of ever greater numbers and intensities of significant weather events.
Don Watson has just published a book on best practices and lessons learned for creating buildings and communities that are more resilient in the face of severe weather, climate change and flooding. See more about this topical book at: http://ca.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470475641.html .
Here is a description of the book from the Wiley website:
Architects, urban planners and urban designers, as well as water resources engineers and landscape architects will discover thatDesign for Flooding presents the best practices and lessons to create buildings and communities that are more resilient in the face of severe weather, climate change, and the prospect of rising sea level. Design for Flooding covers technical and institutional issues—along with new design and business opportunities—built upon fundamentals of climate and weather, stormwater and floodplain management; best practices of flood-resistant design and adaption to sea level rise; multidisciplinary design that integrates sound ecological and engineering principles; and innovative design and construction to protect and improve water security
I had the opportunity to attend the CAPS RESILIENCE Conference (See at http://caps-aceau.org/2010/01/19/caps-aceau-2010-conference-program/ ) held at the University of Waterloo this past week, and was very impressed by the planning students I met there. One of the interesting topics of that emerged during my conversations with attendees after my keynote presentation was the nature and extent of some of the shocks and stresses that cities might experience in the future as a result of some combination of Climate Change, Energy Scarcity, and Population Change.
This got me thinking about developing scenarios about what cities will have to prepare for in order to test the resilience strategies that we had been talking about at the conference.
It then occurred to me that we should take advantage of the ability of Web 2.0 to allow us to crowd-source these scenarios in a productive (and maybe even entertaining way).
What do you think? How about a virtual mini-charrette to crowd source ideas on potential scenarios for future shocks and stresses that our cities will have to build resilience to? Do you have any suggestions about how to run this?
My first thought would be to simply ask for everyone to suggest the best way to set it up, then run it for a couple of weeks, and see what we get. What about some sort of token reward to the most creative and compelling scenario? It could be judged by everyone who participated. Maybe on Survey Monkey? How about a Flip video cam as the reward for the most compelling scenario?