Resilience – Introducing CEEQUAL Version 6

When developing infrastructure to meet our needs today, how can we ensure the assets will be able to meet the needs of the future? What threats do we need to consider? And how do we plan for a range of potential scenarios? Our infrastructure needs to be resilient, but what does this mean in practice? This second article in a series introducing CEEQUAL Version 6 describes the new resilience requirements that aim to address these questions.

The use of the term ‘resilience’ has grown substantially over the last five years. At times, it has been used as a succinct term for climate change adaptation. Now it is more widely used to refer to the ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt, or rapidly recover from any disruptive event, including natural hazards and intentional threats. It is this wider definition that has been used in the resilience section in CEEQUAL Version 6.

The question often arises as to why intentional threats, such as a cyber-attack or terrorism, would be included in a sustainability rating scheme. The answer is simple: infrastructure assets provide a public service, whether that be transportation or the supply of energy or water, and as such any event which could prevent the asset from serving its purpose will reduce the quality of life for communities and their citizens. Delivering quality of life for current and future generations is a core part of sustainable development.

As the scope of resilience widens, we need to plan for the potential impacts on the built environment from a variety of threats. One fundamental element of the resilience requirements in CEEQUAL is the proactive identification and evaluation of hazards and threats, and identification of appropriate risk management. Actions to reduce risks can be categorised into four Rs:

Designing the asset to withstand predicted impacts, e.g. barriers to prevent water entering the asset or walls with the strength to withstand the impact of flood water or fire/explosion.

The asset or systems required to operate under a range of set conditions for a specified period, this might include raising critical components above the design flood level, or using specifications that address identified risks, e.g. burglar alarms or anti-graffiti coatings. It can also include non-technical items such as flood warning schemes, staff training and good practice guidance to ensure that staff can respond to events to ensure continuity of service in a safe manner.

The availability of backup installations or spare capacity within a system to enable operations to be switched or diverted to alternative parts of the system in the event of disruption to ensure continuity of service. The resilience of networks reduces when running at or near capacity, although in some sectors or organisations it is recognised that it may not always be feasible to operate with significant spare capacity within the network.

Preparations for fast and effective response and recovery from disruptive events and will include processes for dealing with an event if it occurs to ensure that the asset can continue to operate.

A common theme in the four R’s is ‘systems’ – a second key element in the CEEQUAL resilience requirements. Seeing the asset as a part of a system and considering its dependencies is vital when planning and designing for resilience. The right level of risk management does not necessarily directly correlate to the size or complexity of the asset. It is important to consider the asset’s role in the wider network or system because a relatively small asset may be vital in maintaining wider critical services.

An example of this would be the extreme flooding seen in the UK on Boxing Day 2015 when North Yorkshire police had multiple communications problems. Flooding at sites in Leeds and York resulted in reduced capacity on the police internal radio network; a flooded telephone exchange in York resulted in all 999 calls being rerouted; and a flooded data centre in Leeds put the 101 non-emergency lines out of action. Whilst some of these sites had been identified as at risk of flooding none of them had been identified as critical, particularly when they were considered as part of the whole police communications system. This is an example of how even the smallest asset can be incredibly critical when considered as part of a wider network, but this will only be established if the necessary questions are asked about the wider system when designing an asset.

A final important element of the approach to resilience in CEEQUAL is the consideration of adaptability. How adaptable is the asset to serve future needs? Depending on the nature of the asset, considerations around adaptability could include population growth, new technologies, flexibility of the asset and wider industry changes. The objective here is to ensure the asset can maintain its function for as long as possible and so avoid unnecessary future disruption and cost.

In a changing climate with more regular and extreme weather events, coupled with the greater consideration of intentional threats, resilience is going to be an increasingly important issue for the infrastructure sector. Physical, social, and economic loses must be avoided as far as possible if we are to develop truly sustainable assets. To effectively manage the risks and minimise loss, resilience must be considered in detail during the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure projects. The resilience section in CEEQUAL provides a rigorous, objective method of doing this as part of a wider assessment of sustainability issues.

To find out more about CEEQUAL Version 6, including the new resilience requirements, visit the CEEQUAL Version 6 webpage.