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THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

AND RESILIENCE:

THE CHALLENGES OF

INTEGRATED ACTION

Alan March, Rebecca Clements

and Maria Kornakova

Cities, towns and urban regions are

associated with many of the benefits

and drivers of human life as we now

experience them, including creativity,

social and life opportunities and prosperity.

They are also linked with many of the

greatest challenges.

Natural and human-generated hazards

pose ongoing risks to the resilience of

Australian cities and settlements. These

threats to resilience can be understood as

ongoing challenges to the functioning of our

settlements as safe, productive, connected,

invigorating and sustainable places.

Importantly, these hazards continue to

evolve. Previously, we tended to understand

the main hazards as those with origins in

the natural world, such as bushfire, floods,

cyclones and storms. These risks remain,

and in fact appear to be increasing in their

intensity and consequences. This is due

to the combination of growth in Australian

settlements, increased variability in weather

and climate, and our reliance on systems

that are sometimes proving to be quite

“brittle” such as electricity grids, reticulated

water, internet communications and food

supply chains.

In parallel with the threat of “traditional”

hazards impacting upon our settlements,

new and evolving risks are increasingly

making their presence known. These

emergent threats have characteristics that

require new approaches to risk reduction.

Previously, the majority of our attentions and

indeed resources were devoted to sudden

onset disasters, such as floods and fires.

The nature of these sudden onset threats

meant we initially developed

response

approaches to counter the impacts of

these threats. Fire agencies and emergency

services mobilise quickly and “fight” threats

through measures such as putting out fires,

sandbagging rivers, evacuating, and other

appropriate means. These approaches

continue to be important, however, the

emergence of

slow onset risks

now requires

new understandings of the range of threats

we face, in parallel with new approaches.

OUR URBAN AREAS REPRESENT EXCEPTIONAL LEVELS OF INVESTMENT IN RESOURCES, HUMAN LABOUR

AND CULTURE, IN PARALLEL WITH FAR REACHING CHANGES TO THE NATURAL WORLD.

Traditionally, it has been common for the

emergency services to see most aspects

of the built environment as static elements

in our “hazardscapes”. Responders would

work around the various elements of the

built environment, seeking to deal with

emergencies and disasters as they

occurred. Increasingly sophisticated

understandings are now emerging that

seek to address these risks at a more

fundamental level.

For example, recognition that over 70%

of dwellings destroyed during bushfires are

the result of ember attack, rather than direct

flame contact or ambient heat, has led

to new design and regulatory approaches

that do not rely on mass vegetation clearing.

THE EMERGENCE OF SLOW

ONSET RISKS NOW REQUIRES

NEW UNDERSTANDINGS OF THE

RANGE OF THREATS WE FACE.

The University

of Melbourne

ARCHITECTURE BUILDING AND PLANNING