Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation

Driving Harder & Deeper Into Sustainable Development !?!

2013-01-13:   The 13th … a lucky day !

As we drive harder and deeper (at least some of us anyway ?) towards a future of Sustainable Human & Social Developmentor are forcefully driven by the anthropogenic (man-made) pressures of Resource Shortages (e.g. water – food – energy) and Climate Change, in the case of millions of people living in poverty throughout the world … or are dragged screaming, which I fear will have to be the solution with the privileged classes in every society who are addicted to lavish and wasteful lifestyles and who show absolutely no interest in either Climate Change or Resource Shortages until they rear up and bite them in the ass (!!) … there is a desperate need for a more complex and precise language of Sustainability, which will give shape to the innovative trans-sectoral concepts and trans-disciplinary policy and decision-making support tools required for Tangible/’Real’ Sustainability & Climate Resilience Implementation.

At the time of writing, the Principal Challenge before us is …

Transforming Social Organization … the Ultimate Goal being to arrive quickly at a dynamic and harmonious balance between a Sustainable Human Environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, Natural Environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving Social Wellbeing for All.

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Climate Change did not directly cause Hurricane Sandy, a severe weather event which hit the Caribbean and the East Coast of the USA during October 2012 … but it was a significant contributing factor.  Scenes like those in the photograph below will be experienced far more frequently in the future.

This is not Manhattan, in New York City … so, is the development shown below to be removed altogether … or renewed with the necessary and very costly construction of a massive system of flood protection measures ?   Not an easy choice.  Which choice would be more sustainable ?

However … WHEN, not IF … Average Global Temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius, many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will suffer a similar fate … permanently …

North-Eastern USA After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing a flooded/inundated coastal community, in north-eastern USA, after Hurricane Sandy. Click to enlarge.

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The Type of Lightweight Development in the foreground of the photograph below … damaged beyond repair or re-construction during Hurricane Sandy, is not Resilient … which is a different concept to Robust, or Robustness.

Notice the building in the background, on the left, which appears to have survived fully intact … why ??

North-Eastern USA After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing the destruction of beachfront buildings, in north-eastern USA, caused by Hurricane Sandy. It will be ridiculous, and the height of stupidity, to repair/replace buildings and infrastructure using similar methods of construction. Will Insurance Companies and Federal/State Authorities understand this ?? Click to enlarge.

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In complete contrast … the Type of Development, below, is more Resilient.  Furthermore, however, as a normal human reaction to decades of aggressive, but ultimately unsuccessful, political bullying and economic assault by the USA, the Social Fabric of Cuba is very strong … making this a Resilient Human Environment

Santiago de Cuba After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing the damage caused to a local community in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, by Hurricane Sandy. Click to enlarge.

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So … what is a Resilient Human Environment … particularly in the context of Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation ?

What do we mean by Transforming Social Organization ??

And … as we drive forward, harder and deeper … why is it critical that we practice a balanced, synchronous approach … across ALL Aspects of Sustainability … to Tangible Sustainability & Climate Resilience Implementation ???

Let us confront some more interesting new words and thought-provoking concepts …

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European Sustainable Development Network

2012 – ESDN Quarterly Report Number 26 – Umberto Pisano, Author

ESDN Quarterly Report Number 26, 2012

ESDN – ‘Resilience and Sustainable Development: Theory of Resilience, Systems Thinking & Adaptive Governance’

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.17 Mb)

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Abridged Executive Summary

The term resilience originated in the 1970’s in the field of ecology from the research of C.S.Holling, who defined resilience as ‘a measure of the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables’.  In short, resilience is defined as ‘the ability of a system to absorb disturbances and still retain its basic function and structure’, and as ‘the capacity to change in order to maintain the same identity’.

Resilience can best be described by three crucial characteristics: (1) the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or domain of attraction; (2) the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization; and (3) the ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation.

In the need for persistence, we can find a first connection with sustainable development.  Sustainable development has the objective of creating and maintaining prosperous social, economic, and ecological systems.  Humanity has a need for persistence.  And since humanity depends on services of ecosystems for its wealth and security, humanity and ecosystems are deeply linked.  As a result, humanity has the imperative of striving for resilient socio-ecological systems in light of sustainable development.

Resilience thinking is inevitably systems thinking at least as much as sustainable development is.  In fact, ‘when considering systems of humans and nature (socio-ecological systems) it is important to consider the system as a whole.  The human domain and the biophysical domain are interdependent’.  In this framework where resilience is aligned with systems thinking, three concepts are crucial to grasp: (1) humans live and operate in social systems that are inextricably linked with the ecological systems in which they are embedded; (2) socio-ecological systems are complex adaptive systems that do not change in a predictable, linear, incremental fashion; and (3) resilience thinking provides a framework for viewing a socio-ecological system as one system operating over many linked scales of time and space.  Its focus is on how the system changes and copes with disturbance.

To fully understand resilience theory, the report focuses therefore on the explanation of a number of crucial concepts: thresholds, the adaptive cycle, panarchy, resilience, adaptability, and transformability.

As shown, humanity and ecosystems are deeply linked.  This is also the fundamental reason why to adopt the resilience-thinking framework is a necessity for governance.  The resilience perspective shifts policies from those that aspire to control change in systems assumed to be stable, to managing the capacity of socio–ecological systems to cope with, adapt to, and shape change.  It is argued that managing for resilience enhances the likelihood of sustaining desirable pathways for development, particularly in changing environments where the future is unpredictable and surprise is likely.

This exposes the strong need for Sustainable Development Governance to embrace resilience thinking.  It is not only about being trans-disciplinary and avoiding partial and one-viewpoint solutions; what is needed to solve today’s problems – and especially those linked to sustainable development – is a new approach that considers humans as a part of Earth’s ecosystems, and one in which policies can more effectively cope with, adapt to, and shape change.

In this scenario, the concept and key characteristics of so-called adaptive governance seem to be a practical means for societies to deal with the complex issues that socio-ecological systems are confronted with.  Therefore, adaptive governance is best understood as an approach that unites those environmental and natural resource management approaches that share some or all of the following principles: polycentric and multi-layered institutions, participation and collaboration, self-organization and networks, and learning and innovation.  Additionally, four interactive crucial aspects for adaptive governance are suggested: (1) to build knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics; (2) to feed ecological knowledge into adaptive management practices; (3) to support flexible institutions and multilevel governance systems; and,(4) to deal with external disturbances, uncertainty, and surprise.  Therefore, nine values toward a resilient world are also suggested: diversity, ecological variability, modularity, acknowledging slow variables, tight feedbacks, social capital, innovation, overlap in governance, and ecosystem services.

Finally, three examples analyse practical instances in terms of resilience: (1) the approach taken by the so-called climate change adaptation discourse; (2) the Kristianstad Water Vattenrike, a wetland in southern Sweden that showed problems with loss of wet meadows, decline of water quality, and a disappearing wildlife habitat; and 3) the Goulburn-Broken Catchment from the State of Victoria (Australia).  Some lessons can be drawn from these three cases.  From the first case, governance structures have direct implications for the level of flexibility in responding to future change as well as variation in local contexts.  Sensitivity to feedbacks relates both to the timing as well as where these feedbacks occur.  Therefore, learning is more likely if feedbacks occur soon relative to action, and if those most affected by feedbacks are those responsible for the action.  Additionally, the way in which a problem is conceptually framed determines the way in which responses are identified and evaluated and therefore influences the range of response characteristics.  Second, the example from Sweden revealed that (a) the imposition of a set of rules to protect an ecosystem from the outside will not ensure the natural qualities of a region will be preserved over time.  One size never fits all, and an understanding of local history and culture needs to be integrated into the management if local values are to be looked after; (b) for an organization to meaningfully deal with complexity at many scales, it needs to include representatives from each of these levels in the social network; (c) several organizations need to be prepared to contribute to a shared vision and build consensus and leadership – crucial components in adaptability and transformability.  Third, the Goulburn-Broken story demonstrates the critical importance of understanding the underlying variables that drive a socio-ecological system, knowing where thresholds lie along these variables, and knowing how much disturbance it will take to push the system across these thresholds.

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NIST’s Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses

2011-10-25:  Since shortly after my visit to Lower Manhattan in mid-October 2001 … we have maintained an Archive Page on Structural Fire Engineering, World Trade Center Incident (9-11) & Fire Serviceability Limit States … at SDI’s Corporate WebSite.  And I have referenced here … many, many times … the Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 Final Reports of the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) on the 9-11 World Trade Center Building 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.

In this post (and a series of future posts) … I find it most necessary that the 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations now be presented for everyone to read.  Yes, some of Recommendations apply specifically to Tall and Very Tall Buildings … and Building Designers in India, China, Brazil, Russia & South Africa (BRICS), the Arab Gulf RegionEurope and North America, etc., should be fully aware of their contents.

BUT … I am also strongly convinced … precisely because I am an Architect, a Fire Engineer and a Technical Controller … that most of the NIST Recommendations apply to ALL Buildings … so catastrophic was the failure exposed on that fateful day (11 September 2001) … in all of our common design and construction practices … and our operation, maintenance and emergency response procedures !

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PRELIMINARY COMMENTS

  1.     Extract from Paragraph #9.2, Chapter 9, NIST Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers – Report Reference NIST NCSTAR 1 (2005) …

  • NIST believes  that these Recommendations are both realistic and achievable within a reasonable period of time, and that their implementation would make buildings safer for occupants and emergency responders in future emergencies.
  • NIST strongly urges  that immediate and serious consideration be given to these Recommendations by the building and fire safety communities – especially designers, owners, developers, codes and standards development organizations, regulators, fire safety professionals, and emergency responders.
  • NIST also strongly urges  building owners and public officials to:  (i) evaluate the safety implications of these Recommendations for their existing inventory of buildings;  and (ii) take the steps necessary to mitigate any unwarranted risks without waiting for changes to occur in codes, standards, and practices.

  2.     At the time of writing … it is important to point out that although they are related Structural Concepts … and there is still, to this day, a lot of confusion about these concepts in the USA … it is important to clearly distinguish between …

Disproportionate Damage

The failure of a building’s structural system  (i) remote from the scene of an isolated overloading action;  and (ii) to an extent which is not in reasonable proportion to that action.

Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse

The sequential growth and intensification of distortion, displacement and failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.

  3.     Recommendation 2, below, would certainly need to be understood and implemented within today’s additional design constraints of Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience to Severe Weather Events.  Therefore … Design Wind Speeds must be increased, accordingly, for ALL Buildings.

  4.     As such a high level of performance is expected … indeed demanded … of a Sustainable BuildingSustainable Fire Engineering must be ‘reliability-based’.  In other words, it must have a rational, empirical and scientifically robust basis … unlike conventional fire engineering, which is yet aimlessly wandering around in pre-historic caves !

  5.     Finally … there is no use trying to hide the fact that progress on implementing the NIST Recommendations, within the USA, has been lamentably slow.  Outside that jurisdiction, the response has ranged from mild interest, to complete apathy, and even to vehement antipathy.  The implications arising from implementation are much too hard to digest … for long established fire safety professionals and researchers who are unswervingly committed to the flawed and out-of-date practices and procedures of conventional fire engineering and, especially, for vested interests !

However … is it either in society’s interest, or in the interests of our clients/client organizations … that, to give you a simple example which is relevant close to home, British Standard 9999 (published on 31 October 2008): ‘Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings’ takes absolutely no account of any of the NIST Recommendations ?   As far as the British Standards Institution is concerned … 9-11 never happened … which I think is an inexcusable and unforgivable technical oversight !

For this reason, the General Public in ALL of our societies and Clients/Client Organizations in ALL countries should also be fully aware of the contents of these Recommendations …

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Colour photograph showing the two World Trade Center Towers immediately after the impact of the second plane. At a fundamental level, this was a very serious 'real' fire incident ... which was extensively, and very thoroughly, investigated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) ... and resulted in the important 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the two World Trade Center Towers immediately after the impact of the second plane. At a fundamental level, this was a very serious 'real' fire incident ... which was extensively, and very thoroughly, investigated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) ... and resulted in the important 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations. Click to enlarge.

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2005 NIST WTC RECOMMENDATIONS

GROUP 1.   Increased Structural Integrity

The standards for estimating the load effects of potential hazards (e.g. progressive collapse, wind) and the design of structural systems to mitigate the effects of those hazards should be improved to enhance structural integrity.

NIST WTC Recommendation 1.

NIST recommends that:  (1) progressive collapse be prevented in buildings through the development and nationwide adoption of consensus standards and code provisions, along with the tools and guidelines needed for their use in practice;  and (2) a standard methodology be developed – supported by analytical design tools and practical design guidance – to reliably predict the potential for complex failures in structural systems subjected to multiple hazards.

a.   Progressive collapse* should be prevented in buildings.

[ * F-19  Progressive collapse (or disproportionate damage) occurs when an initial local failure spreads from structural element to structural element resulting in the collapse of an entire structure or a disproportionately large part of it.]

The primary structural systems should provide alternate paths for carrying loads in case certain components fail (e.g. transfer girders or columns).  This is especially important in buildings where structural components (e.g. columns, girders) support unusually large floor areas.*

[ * F-20  While the WTC towers eventually collapsed, they had the capacity to redistribute loads from impact and fire damaged structural components and sub-systems to undamaged components and sub-systems.  However, the core columns in the WTC towers lacked sufficient redundant (alternative) paths for carrying gravity loads.]

Progressive collapse is addressed only in a very limited way in practice and by codes and standards.  For example, the initiating event in design to prevent progressive collapse may be removal of one or two columns at the bottom of the structure.  Initiating events at multiple locations within the structure, or involving other key components and sub-systems, should be analyzed commensurate with the risks considered in the design.  The effectiveness of mitigation approaches involving new system and sub-system design concepts should be evaluated with conventional approaches based on indirect design (continuity, strength and ductility of connections), direct design (local hardening), and redundant (alternate) load paths.  The capability to prevent progressive collapse due to abnormal loads should include:  (i) comprehensive design rules and practice guides;  (ii) evaluation criteria, methodology, and tools for assessing the vulnerability of structures to progressive collapse;  (iii) performance-based criteria for abnormal loads and load combinations;  (iv) analytical tools to predict potential collapse mechanisms;  and (v) computer models and analysis procedures for use in routine design practice.  The federal government should co-ordinate the existing programmes that address this need:  those in the Department of Defence;  the General Services Administration;  the Defence Threat Reduction Agency;  and NIST.  Affected Standards:  ASCE-7, AISC Specifications, and ACI 318.  These standards and other relevant committees should draw on expertise from ASCE/SFPE 29 for issues concerning progressive collapse under fire conditions.  Model Building Codes:  The consensus standards should be adopted in model building codes (i.e. the International Building Code and NFPA 5000) by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.  State and local jurisdictions should adopt and enforce the improved model building codes and national standards based on all 30 WTC Recommendations (2005).  The codes and standards may vary from the WTC Recommendations, but satisfy their intent.

b.   A robust, integrated predictive capability should be developed, validated, and maintained to routinely assess the vulnerability of whole structures to the effects of credible hazards.  This capability to evaluate the performance and reserve capacity of structures does not exist and is a significant cause for concern.  This capability would also assist in investigations of building failure – as demonstrated by the analyses of the WTC building collapses carried out in this Investigation.  The failure analysis capability should include all possible complex failure phenomena that may occur under multiple hazards (e.g. bomb blasts, fires, impacts, gas explosions, earthquakes, and hurricane winds), experimentally validated models, and robust tools for routine analysis to predict such failures and their consequences.  This capability should be developed via a co-ordinated effort involving federal, private sector, and academic research organizations in close partnership with practicing engineers.

NIST WTC Recommendation 2.

NIST recommends that nationally accepted performance standards be developed for:  (1) conducting wind tunnel testing of prototype structures based on sound technical methods that result in repeatable and reproducible results among testing laboratories;  and (2) estimating wind loads and their effects on tall buildings for use in design, based on wind tunnel testing data and directional wind speed data.  Wind loads specified in current prescriptive codes may not be appropriate for the design of very tall buildings since they do not account for building-specific aerodynamic effects.  Further, a review of wind load estimates for the WTC towers indicated differences by as much as 40 % from wind tunnel studies conducted in 2002 by two independent commercial laboratories.  Major sources of differences in estimation methods currently used in practice occur in the selection of design wind speeds and directionality, the nature of hurricane wind profiles, the estimation of ‘component’ wind effects by integrating wind tunnel data with wind speed and direction information, and the estimation of ‘resultant’ wind effects using load combination methods.  Wind loads were a major factor in the design of the WTC tower structures and were relevant to evaluating the baseline capacity of the structures to withstand abnormal events such as major fires or impact damage.  Yet, there is lack of consensus on how to evaluate and estimate winds and their load effects on buildings.

a.   Nationally accepted standards should be developed and implemented for conducting wind tunnel tests, estimating site-specific wind speed and directionality based on available data, and estimating wind loads associated with specific design probabilities from wind tunnel test results and directional wind speed data.

b.   Nationally accepted standards should be developed for estimating wind loads in the design of tall buildings.  The development of performance standards for estimating wind loads should consider:  (1) appropriate load combinations and load factors, including performance criteria for static and dynamic behaviour, based on both ultimate and serviceability limit states;  and (2) validation of wind load provisions in prescriptive design standards for tall buildings, given the universally acknowledged use of wind tunnel testing and associated performance criteria.  Limitations to the use of prescriptive wind load provisions should be clearly identified in codes and standards.

The standards development work can begin immediately to address many of the above needs.  The results of those efforts should be adopted in practice as soon as they become available.  The research that will be required to address the remaining needs also should begin immediately and results should be made available for standards development and use in practice.  Affected National Standard:  ASCE-7.  Model Building Codes:  The standard should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

NIST WTC Recommendation 3.

NIST recommends that an appropriate criterion be developed and implemented to enhance the performance of tall buildings by limiting how much they sway under lateral load design conditions (e.g. winds and earthquakes).  The stability and safety of tall buildings depend upon, among other factors, the magnitude of building sway or deflection, which tends to increase with building height.  Conventional strength-based methods, such as those used in the design of the WTC towers, do not limit deflections.  The deflection limit state criterion, which is proposed here is in addition to the stress limit state and serviceability requirement;  it should be adopted either to complement the safety provided by conventional strength-based design or independently as an alternate deflection-based approach to the design of tall buildings for life safety.  The recommended deflection limit state criterion is independent of the criterion used to ensure occupant comfort, which is met in current practice by limiting accelerations (e.g. in the 15 to 20 milli-g range). Lateral deflections, which already are limited in the design of tall buildings to control damage in earthquake-prone regions, should also be limited in non-seismic areas.*

[ * F-22  Analysis of baseline performance under the original design wind loads indicated that the WTC towers would need to have been between 50 % and 90 % stiffer to achieve a typical drift ratio used in current practice for non-seismic regions, though not required by building codes.  Limiting drift would have required increasing exterior column areas in lower stories and/or significant additional damping.]

Affected National standards:  ASCE-7, AISC Specifications, and ACI 318.  Model Building Codes:  The standard should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

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