Recent extreme weather events and natural disasters, as well as long-term climate trends, have exposed vulnerabilities and shown that communities need to seriously and proactively consider the threat of these events.
An innovative, data-driven and risk-based approach is providing new opportunities to plan and design more resilient infrastructure that is better prepared to withstand the impact of hurricanes and other natural events.
“This is emerging as an approach to flooding and storm mitigation,” said Allan Estivalet, water resources group leader and Northeast resiliency lead for WSP USA. “Our firm is a leader in the creation of data-driven solutions”, which looks at how data can be better used to effectively design projects and engage people with what climate change will mean for their communities.”
Estivalet was part of a panel discussing “Data-Driven Resiliency” at the Data for Good Exchange 2017 conference sponsored by Bloomberg on Sept. 24 in New York City, an annual conference on the application of data science to solve problems for the social good and enhance the quality of life. Data scientists from academia, industry and the public sector build relationships, share insights and progress, and work together on applying modern machine learning and data science methods to challenges in the public and non-profit sectors.
“It’s a new way of planning; looking at future risks and project context rather than designing structures based solely on regulatory criteria, which is the traditional approach but doesn’t necessarily reflect current and future risks,” Estivalet said. “As we’ve come to realize, much of our infrastructure was not designed and built to withstand the risks we face today.”
Estivalet was joined on the panel by Pippa Brashear of SCAPE and Paul Tschirky of ARCADIS. Brashear and Tschirky focused on flooding issues related to the New York City coastal area, while Estivalet discussed prevention measures for inland areas.
Estivalet explained how his team collects, evaluates and selects data used in advanced models to accurately determine flooding risks and develop appropriate solutions for future growth, development and reconstruction.
“The important role of the engineer is to figure out the best data to use,” he said. “It’s a complex selection process, but even the best data in a project context is limited by what regulatory agiencies accept for project to be constructed. We are there to find that optimum balance between the need of our projects, what is permitted to be constructed, and where regulations may need to be updated.”