Comment: Rise up with resilience09 April 2024

We continue to hear more and more from the UK Government about the issues surrounding the ‘resilience of systems’, whether they be financial, political, disaster or climate related. The prominence of the phrase is due to ever-increasing concerns over recurring responses to underlying vulnerabilities. These issues could be repeated flooding, excessive seasonal high temperatures resulting in wildfires, or the impact on the provision of energy due to national conflicts.

Resilience crosses all sectors, affecting governance, infrastructure, economics and livelihoods. We, as engineers, need to think about how to respond to these challenges. These considerations should include the future design, manufacture and operation of current and future systems to mitigate the effects of current and future stresses and shock on systems.

Stress is defined as a long-term trend that has a slow impact undermining systems over time (such as continual flooding). Shock being caused by the long-term or repetitive stresses that cause a system to reach failure point (landslides and collapse, for example).

As engineers, the concept of resilience has generally been related to the structural and functional integrity of physical infrastructures and operating systems. We must consider how we go about enhancing resilience to minimise future impacts on the livelihood, health and economic stability of individuals and businesses.

Steve Burnage, chair, Environmental Engineers

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