Publications, Lectures & Presentations

Integrating Resilience and Sustainability in Infrastructure Design

Posting Date: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

HARC Research Scientist Carolyn LaFleur, P.E. was invited to speak at the regular meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers Houston Branch on September 19th. As a long-time member, she holds leadership roles in the Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) of ASCE. Her talk, entitled “Integrating Resilience and Sustainability in Infrastructure Design” focused on strategies for flood mitigation and urban revitalization. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey there is heightened awareness of ways in which conventional development practices exacerbated flooding. Civil engineers will be tasked with evaluating hydrological data and rebuilding infrastructure.

As the work of disaster recovery continues, our infrastructure must be rethought and redesigned with new understandings of modern flooding in our region. The structures and strategies of the natural world offer inspiration for adapting to these new realities. The systems and organisms found in nature are elegantly designed to superbly perform a myriad of functions using minimal materials and energy, adapting to changing conditions as a matter of survival. This is another lesson from the natural world that we should take to heart. Sustainability and resilience are essential to adaptation, and therefore essential for survival.

Civil engineering is the nexus where science is applied to the design and management of built and natural environments for the benefit of Earth’s inhabitants. The gravity of this responsibility compels civil engineers to continually seek and integrate the best available understandings and technologies. Design practitioners need the new information that research can provide, while researchers need to understand the challenges faced by the design community and those charged with the management and maintenance of engineered systems. In the Houston region and worldwide engineers are tasked with finding ways to adapt to ever-changing conditions of population, climate, technological advancements, and expectations of the public. EWRI offers many resources for the design community to use in meeting the challenges of creating resilient infrastructure and protecting the natural environment.