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Exclusive interview of AECOM Global Resilience Director Josh Sawislak

2015-12-29 18:38:28   Source:ARCHINA

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AR:To the understanding of the resilience,people maybe only stay in anti-disaster and disaster alleviation. You mentioned about economy in the speech,and what else elements of resilience do you think in society, technology and residents’ daily life?

Mr.Sawislak:
Resilience is a very broad term. Its origin is in science. In physics, resilience is the property of a material to return to its normal state after being compressed or stretched. So in communities, we define resilience as the ability to absorb or quickly recover from disruption. That disruption may be physical, as in a cyclone, earthquake, or flood. It can be an acute incident like one of these natural disasters, but it can also be a more constant stressor such as increases in temperature, sea level rise, or drought. There are social and economic aspects to resilience, but at AECOM our main focus is on the built environment so we look at the facilities and assets that support our communities – the infrastructure. But clearly issues such as access to effective healthcare, personal safety, and economic opportunity are critical to community resilience. In her book on the subject, The Resilience Dividend, Dr. Judith Rodin, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation and the architect of the 100 Resilient Cities program, discusses the full palate of issues affecting resilient communities.

AR:We know you work on hurricane Sandy post-disaster reconstruction all the time. What’s the key of the reconstruction work? And how to reflect the idea of resilient city to the reconstruction?

Mr.Sawislak:
One of the hardest parts of this job is to work with people who have lost everything in a disaster, including all too often family members and other loved ones. But to see the resilience of these people is inspiring. What all of them seem to understand, but often policy makers forget is that we must rebuild looking to the future, not the past. What I often hear from survivors of disasters is that we can’t prevent what happened to them, but we can prevent it happening to others in the future. To do that, we must understand the changing nature of the threat, both that affected by climate change and other issues that make the future different from the past. We should always rebuild stronger and more resilient to the threats we will face, but in order to do that we must understand and evaluate those threats. Too often we wait until after a disaster to realize that we must think about the resilience of our built environment.

AR:Resilience is a global issue.On account of the different national conditions ,how to achieve the development strategy of resilient city under the diverse policy and climatic conditions? You mentioned Japan in the speech,do you have any other examples?

Mr.Sawislak:
Two of the main challenges to resilience are that it is a relative term and that it is place and issue specific. The policies of one family, town, or even country may need to be different than others. The people of Singapore and in the U.S., New Orleans, have learned a lot about water management, but the issues they face are different that those faces by a city like Chongqing, which I recently visited and toured with my AECOM colleagues as well as lecturing at Chongqing University. In Chongqing, sea level rise is not a big concern, but the viability of the river and building standards appropriate for a seismically active area are critical. Just as Shanghai and Shenzhen face different challenges than Beijing, even though all are large, congested cities. Like Japan, Chile has recognized their risk from earthquakes and tsunamis, but in places like the Israel, Singapore, and Los Angeles, they know water is their challenge.

AR:Which city has achieved the development strategy of resilient city in your opinion? What’s the basic terms of the resilient city?

Mr.Sawislak:
There are many cities that have made great strides in becoming more resilient. Note that one can only become “more” resilient as it is a relative term. New York City is a good example with the planning they have done before and after Hurricane Sandy, as are Singapore, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Kobe, Blackpool, Copenhagen, Sydney, Chicago, Santiago, Christchurch, and the little town of Moore, Oklahoma where they implemented one of the strongest building codes in the United States to recognize the threat they face from tornadoes. At AECOM, we have been working with cities across the globe on these issues and as we have recently presented in our new magazine, Innovation Quarterly, the stories of these cities is very promising and serve as great examples for learning, but we must remember that no one strategy works for all cities or all issues. The key to being a resilient city is to understand the threats you face and to use a risk management strategy to mitigate, transfer, or accept those risks in an organized and effective manner. Any city can do this, but it takes political will and science and engineering support to accomplish it.

AR:What’s your opinion about the tendency of the future development about resilient city, and how many changes will come up in people’s life?

Mr.Sawislak:
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus tells us that the only constant in life is change. The world is dynamic and we must realize that while we cannot predict the future with absolute certainty, we are getting pretty good at understanding the challenges we face from our changing climate and the movement of people from rural areas to cities. As a planner, I tend to think about what we will face in the future and how we can be prepared for that eventuality. As we design, build, and improve our cities and our infrastructure, we must think about the whole lifecycle of these investments and build for the future as much as we build for today. Some changes will happen in our lifetime and some will affect the next generation or the one after that. But if we want those generations to prosper, we must start dealing with issues like carbon emissions and the coming impacts of climate change now.

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