Resilience has become a buzzword within urban planning spheres as a strategic approach in addressing the complexities of challenges confronting the natural, economic, social, physical, and Institutional dimensions of cities. Urban resilience refers to the ability of an urban system and all its constituents across temporal and spatial scales to maintain or rapidly return to desired functions in the face of a disturbance, to adapt to change and to quickly transform systems that limit current or future adaptive capacity (Meerow, 2016).
Resilience requires a cyclical implementation of preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation phases (Mackinnon, 2015). This cyclical approach should ideally result in a city with resiliency characteristics. The characteristics of a resilient system, as suggested by Arup (2014), are illustrated and described in the figure below.
Qualities of Resilient Systems (Arup, 2014)
Flexible: the ability of the system to change, evolve and adapt to changing circumstances through the introduction of new knowledge or adoption of alternative technologies.
Redundant: spare capacity intentionally created within systems to accommodate disruptions e.g., increased demand or extreme pressures. If one component of the system fails, other pathways can be used to meet essential functional needs.
Robust: the ability to withstand the impacts of extreme conditions and to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the city from the failure of a single element through the anticipation of system failures and provisions to maximize predictability and safety.
Resourceful: the ability to rapidly find ways to meet needs during a shock or under stress e.g., by investing in the capacity to anticipate future conditions, set priorities, and mobilise and coordinate the required resources (human, financial, and physical).
Reflective: the willingness to accept unpredictable outcomes and continuously modify standards to appropriately address contemporary shocks and stresses.
Inclusive: the willingness to consult and engage members of the community, particularly those who are vulnerable.
Integrated: the commitment to being mutually supportive of a common outcome through ongoing feedback systems and collaboration across different scales of operation throughout the city.
Prepares the city for disruptive events
Improves reliability of service provision
Increases asset life and protects asset returns
Facilitates social cohesion
Preserves cultural identity
Maintains justice and equity
Functions help you to understand what the products can do for you and which ones will help you achieve your goals.
Each solution has at least one mandatory function, which is needed to achieve the basic purpose of the solution, and several additional functions, which are features that can be added to provide additional benefits.
Prevent and respond to shock and stress
In the face of sudden challenges or expected contingencies, urban resilience aims to prevent and respond to shock and stress
Deliver goods and critical services
Ensure goods and critical services get to those who need it the most
Minimise human vulnerability and safeguard human life
Urban resilience aims to put measures in place that minise negative impacts as mush as possible
Provide, protect, maintain, and enhance assets
Enhance asset life and protect asset returns
Assessments of the economics of resilience suggest that the benefits of such investments in vulnerable urban environments are at least double the cost (Asian Development Bank, 2020) Estimates are suggested to be even greater by UN-Habitat, (UN-Habitat, 2017) in that for every dollar invested in disaster preparedness, an estimated five to ten dollars in economic losses are saved. These savings are due to the advantages expected with resilient ecosystems, some of which are given below.
Value Model for Urban Resilience Implementation (BABLE, 2022)
Although of much interest due to growing concerns about major threats and environmental disasters, urban resilience implementation also has some costs associated with it. Implementation of urban resilience measures is rarely straightforward and comes with traditional challenges of resources, political will, and adoption. In addition to these, it also entails unique challenges such as the need for extensive coordination between government and non-governmental organisations; establishing where implementation begins and ends; maintaining adaptability to changing social, political, economic, and environmental conditions; divergent time horizons between the period of implementation and the anticipated threat; and diverse outcome to be measured and evaluated (Shamsuddin, 2020).
Urban centres are attractive hubs because of the improved access to services, goods, and opportunities for self-advancement. The pull of the urban landscape means that it is constantly susceptible to vulnerabilities. A study of 616 cities — home to 1.7 billion people, with a combined GDP of USD 35 trillion, half of the world's total economic output —, found that floods endanger more city residents than any other natural peril, followed by earthquakes and storms (SwissRe, 2013).
The continuous influx of people with the resulting increase in the demand and pressure on resources, infrastructure, and socio-economical systems combined with the inescapable implications of climate change require strategic consideration in the governance of cities. The governments of cities are, therefore, required to be greater proponents and drivers for resiliency.
Globally, there is no agreed method on how to measure the resilience of a city or place. However, several frameworks exist. The Arup City Resilience Index developed alongside Rockefeller Foundation is one of the many frameworks used to measure city resilience and compare performance over time. The index comprises four themes which represent what city stakeholders across six cities perceive to be the key city functions relevant to improving resilience. They include health and wellbeing; economy and society; infrastructure and ecosystems; and leadership and strategy. Details of the indicators considered under these four different dimensions can be seen in the graphics below.
Dimensions of the ARUP City Resilience Index (Arup & The Rockefeller Foundation, 2015)
A paper published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), titled Indicators for Resilient Cities, presents four drivers of resilience that make up the OECD Resilience Framework. They include economic; social; institutional; and environmental. Outputs from the study show that a cross-sectoral approach across all four dimensions is critical for the development of integrated resilience strategies that can effectively address disasters and risks.
OECD's Resilience Framework for Cities (Figueiredo et al., 2018)
Additional examples of organisations, programmes and tools developed for measuring, assessing, and promoting community resilience include the Community-Based Resilience Analysis tool by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction; UN-HABITAT’s City Resilience Profiling Program; the World Bank; the 100 Resilient Cities programme; ICLEI; the European Commission’s RESCCUE project; and the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON).
- Social and economic investment: Improved access to food, water, mobility, education, health care, and other social services are supported through macro drivers such as globalisation, technological innovations, and digitalisation. The heightened levels of accessibility are supporting improved standards of living. An additional factor is the use of resilient physical assets. Physical resources such as roads and infrastructure are being increasingly designed to continue functioning in the face of natural disasters, and social or technological disruption. Every US$1 invested in making infrastructure disaster-resilient saves US$4 in reconstruction (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction , 2022).
- Accessibility to emergency funds: citizens, the business community, and governmental institutions are provided with access to low-interest loans or grants during times of economic instability. Additionally, there are several green financing instruments to support industrial and governmental initiatives that focus on carbon decoupling and climate change adaptation. It is estimated that financial institutions must grow the share of climate-friendly projects in their portfolios from an average of 7 per cent in 2016 to 30 per cent by 2030 to finance the greening of the economy, which equates to an increase from approximately $1.5 trillion to $13.4 trillion (International Finance Corporation, 2022)
- Active community engagement and effective leadership: Cities rely on open dialogue, democracy, and social cohesiveness to create a resilient atmosphere. A higher level of inclusivity allows citizens to access information and resources that will eventually lead to building local resilience (ICLEI, 2022). The engagement of all citizens is an essential ingredient, particularly for those who are most vulnerable to risks. Therefore, resiliency is the outcome of good governance with effective and intuitive leadership.
- Environmental efficiency Industries: A resilient city aims to reduce its ecological footprint through the creation of waste-to-resource industries, clean technology, green energy, and other environmentally efficient industries. For instance, the circular economy model can foster cities’ resilience by reducing dependency on raw materials (through strategies such as products’ life extension, upcycling, and design for reuse) (ICLEI, 2022).
- Implementation of nature-based solutions: Nature-based solutions such as wetlands, oyster reefs, conservation actions, and urban greening are being used to restore, protect, and increase the resiliency of the natural environment. The utilisation of nature-based solutions is gaining traction in the urban landscape because of their ability to achieve many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, they can help protect life below water and on land (SDG 14 and 15, respectively), which in turn can stimulate economic activities and growth (SDG 8), have positive ramifications on food production (SDG 2), poverty reduction (SDG 1) and with the spillover effects on job creation can also empower women (SDG 5) and help tackle inequalities (SDG 10) (ICLEI, 2022).
- Data and digital transformation are fostering urban planning efficiency through data infrastructure and analytical tools that can facilitate the improvement of urban infrastructure, and tackle challenges, such as waste reduction, energy efficiency, and disaster preparedness (ICLEI, 2022). Planning for resilience requires methods of working with data and systems which can be easily translated to decision-makers to develop evidence-based, replicable practices, and easily communicated scenarios that can inform the resilience planning process (Langenheim N., 2017).
Stakeholder Map for Urban Resilience Implementation (BABLE, 2022)
According to BCC Research, the global market for resilient building design and planning technologies for climate-resilient cities should grow from $82.4 billion in 2020 to $124.8 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.7% during 2020-2025 (BCC Research, 2020).
Resiliency requires the transition to a resource-efficient economy, in which economic activity contributes as little as possible to the deterioration of socio-ecological systems. The good news is that low-carbon and climate-resilient investments deliver far higher economic returns than investments in traditional infrastructure and fossil fuels (World Resources Institute, 2020). Investments in the circular economy, resilient building materials, and nature-based solutions are making significant contributions.
The circular economy is an economic activity that reduces the extraction and use of natural resources using already existing materials and products as inputs. The key activities are recycling, remanufacturing, re-using, repairing, and sharing. The implementation of these activities in the value chain is illustrated in the figure below.
Circular Business Models and Implementation in Different Parts of the Value Chain (Accenture, 2015)
Some circular business models have achieved significant market share, but typically only in restricted economic niches such as product-service systems in automotive coatings and resource recovery in the steel sector (McCarthy, 2018). In other markets, circular business models make up a small percentage, however, continued technological innovation in the manufacturing industry and increased environmental awareness among consumers will support the future growth of circular businesses.
Market Share of Circular Business Models in Selected Sectors (McCarthy, 2018)
The growth of the sharing business models is attributed to the emergence of the internet, mobile phone technology, and the development of referral and reputational systems (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2018). For example, Airbnb has now become the largest single supplier of short-term stays and global membership of urban car-sharing schemes is growing at an annual rate of up to 65% (Shaheen, S. and Cohen, A., 2016); (Recode, 2017).
As a result, the growing circular economy is expected to create up to 3 million jobs in Europe by 2030 (WRAP, 2015) and 6 million new jobs globally by 2030 (ILO , 2018) through waste management, repair, construction, and energy production as well as other circular production strategies.
Green Building Materials: are materials that have a reclamation or recyclability rate or are sustainably sourced. They are also characterised as non-toxic, energy-efficient, and socially responsibly obtained.
Green building construction in the residential sector is increasing due to the rising number of building regulations and policies mandating energy-efficient structures as well as GHG emissions and energy savings (Allied Market Research, 2022). As green building materials are noted for the use of reused resources, these materials reduce natural resource depletion, atmospheric pollution, contamination of freshwater resources, loss of biodiversity, and increase carbon sequestration. Consequently, the global green building materials market size is expected to reach $377,029 million by 2022 from $171,475 million in 2015 with major markets in Germany, the United States, and other Western European and Scandinavian countries (Mordar Intelligence, 2022).
Nature-based solutions: NBS offer and supports a multitude of ecosystem services such as provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural services. Ecosystem services worldwide are worth an estimated $125 trillion annually, and they support industries (like farming, fishing, forestry, and tourism) that employ 1.2 billion people (World Resources Institute, 2020). According to the (Global Commission on Adaptation, 2021) they typically offer a triple dividend of benefits:
- Economic gains, from immediate jobs restoring and protecting nature, to long-term economic growth associated with increasing food and water security, business productivity, and tourism and recreation value.
- Avoided losses from protecting communities and infrastructure from floods, storms, and heatwaves, saving many countries billions of dollars each year.
- Social and environmental benefits, from cleaner air that improves human health and mitigates climate change, to more habitat for endangered species.
Unsurprisingly, significant investments are being committed to nature-based solutions. Current investments in NBS on a global basis have amounted to $133bn with Asian investments estimated at $45 billion (the most of any single global region) and European investments totalling around $25 billion annually (Chandler, 2022). Against the backdrop of COP26 and looming net-zero targets, the world must triple its investments in nature-based solutions (NBS) by 2030 and quadruple them by 2050 to meet the climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation targets (United Nations, 2022).
Financing focused on climate adaptation, GHG reduction, economic recovery, and diversification, is being used to boost urban resiliency. Some of these are described below:
- International Finance Corporation’s Climate Finance: public, private, and alternative sources of financing focused on supporting the mitigation and adaptation actions that address climate change.
- The European Green Deal: funds dedicated to the transformation to a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy through major investments in environmental protection and restoration, economic growth decoupled from resource use, and no person and no place left behind. The European Green Deal is also being used for COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
- New European Bauhaus: environmental, economic, and cultural project, aiming to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability, and investment to help deliver the European Green Deal.
- The European Maritime, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Fund: supports the transition towards more sustainable value chains based on the oceans, seas, and coastal activities.
- European Investment Bank’s Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) provides grants for project preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of nature-based solutions.
Other significant EU funding instruments are being channelled for research, innovation, and solutions to support urban resiliency. They include:
- European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
- European Social Fund (ESF)
- Cohesion Fund (CF)
- European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
- European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
- LIFE+ Climate Action
- European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)
Resources Needed for Urban Resilience Implementation (BABLE, 2022)
The pursuit of urban resilience is an idealistic state of being for municipalities. However, enacting urban resilience is a contested process in which diverse stakeholders are involved, requiring careful consideration of resilience for whom, what, when, where, and why (Meerow et al., 2016). Varying models were identified and considered below.
- Flexibility scale: focuses on the flexibility of existing systems, which ranges from persistence, transitional, and transformational. Persistence reflects the engineering principle that systems should resist disturbance (i.e., buildings being robust to storm impacts) and try to maintain the status quo (Chelleri, 2012). Transition refers to the ability to incrementally adapt (Romero-Lankao, 2013). Transformation refers to more radical changes existing in systems (Brown, 2012)
- Temporal Scale: Resilience is considered by focusing on the time required for recovery. Resilience is measured by the time required to return to a previous stable state after a disturbance” (Meerow, 2016). This type of model is especially critical after the introduction of shocks such as the rapid onset of human-induced disasters and natural disasters. The opposing model focuses on recovery without needing to consider the implication of time such as overcoming a slowing developing challenge or stress factor such as the urban heat island.
- System Scale: With this approach, resilience focuses either on urban assets or systems. Asset-based approaches tend to focus on the redundancy of physical assets such as man-made infrastructure and the diversity of the natural environment rather than system-based approaches that consider social networks, knowledge, and physical systems (Arup, 2014).
Regulations directly relating to the resiliency goal or indirectly focused on achieving resiliency are:
- EU Directive 2004/35/EC: sets aside rules about environmental liability regarding the prevention and remedying of environmental damage.
- EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change: sets out an action plan to avoid the impacts of climate change through the development, planning, and implementation of solutions.
- EU Biodiversity strategy: focuses on ways to foster biodiversity.
Data and Standards
- ISO/TR 22371 Security and Resilience-Urban Resilience Framework: intends to help governments build capacity to deal with challenges posed by urbanisation and climate change
- ARUP City Resilience Framework provides a framework to support cities in the strategic development of urban resiliency. ARUP City Resilience’s index is intended to serve as a planning and decision-making tool to help guide urban investments towards resiliency.
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: set outs 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that aim to promote prosperity while protecting the planet and tackling climate change. SDG 11 specifically prioritises actions that aim to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
- Paris Agreement: focuses on strengthening the global response to climate change by giving relevance to adaptation and resilience.
- United Nations Human Settlements’ (UN-Habitat) New Urban Agenda (NUA): provides a shared vision for a better, resilient, and more sustainable urban future by readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed, and managed.
- UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Tool (CRPT): a tool developed to help governments achieve greater resiliency results with support from the UN-Habitat to maximize the impact of CRPT implementation.
- World Bank’s Resilience Rating System: provides a methodology to build and track resiliency to climate change.
- ISO Climate Action Kit: provides a collection of case studies to assist policymakers in initiatives focused on reducing net greenhouse gas emissions.
- Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030: provides signatories with action plans on how to address disaster risk reduction.
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