Genevieve Oller - Marketing Executive
On 18 September I attended Ciria’s infrastructure risk and resilience to natural hazards event, chaired by John Beckford (UCL) and including a host of speakers from the Cabinet Office, TfL, University of Oxford, John Dora Consulting and contributions to the panel discussion from Arup (who also hosted the event).
Tom Sutton of the Cabinet Office did a fantastic job of setting the scene on how the government currently thinks about and assesses risk to infrastructure. Whilst the event’s focus was on the risk of natural hazards, Tom reminded the audience that risk also extends to terrorism and an ageing population, amongst other factors. He made the point that if it’s happened somewhere once, it can be predicted (i.e. the data will exist) and someone somewhere will have already done the research. John Dora, another speaker at the event and a Temple associate, made the point that around 10 years ago research found that manhole covers in London were going to explode out of the ground, on account of historic under ground cabling and an increase in rainfall. Fast-forward a decade and the newspapers are full of stories about random manhole explosions, but how random were they?
Helen Woolston of TfL gave a highly engaging talk about their current asset management programme, which extends to 2031. She brought home the complexity of the job at hand, with many assets coming from the Victorian period. It was a reminder that in practice, whilst the research is out there to plan for future asset management, is it possible to implement it within such an extensive scheme?
John Dora of John Dora consulting’s solution for resilience of the UK’s infrastructure was ‘no regrets’ construction, therefore having resilience as a major aspiration from step one. This is something that is true of Temple’s working processes, through our work that embeds sustainability from the earliest possible stage of planning, leading to high CEEQUAL and BREEAM scores. John dug a little deeper by stating that one of the key things to obtaining this was education. He mentioned that only a very small number of engineering courses offer interdependency thinking as a module.
The event posed and answered serious questions about resilience of infrastructure to impending natural and man-made risks. It was interesting to find that things that seem so certain can have predictability to them if the research finds it’s way to the right people, but how does that happen? John stated that organisations such as Ciria and Engineering the Future could be the drivers of change. In the panel discussion several speakers mentioned the need for government to take notice, and that it is often once stories have hit the press that they do so (the case with the manhole covers). However, before there is a drastic change to how our media operates, perhaps it sits with individuals to properly circulate the key research papers. Temple is an advocate of sharing information; we hope that we can be a small part of this proposed solution.
Ciria’s next event is run in conjunction with Temple and is on the theme of community engagement, find further details here.