Skip to content

How to Create Resilient Communities and Infrastructure

Resilient solutions are at the heart of climate adaptation, protection of critical infrastructure, and preparation of our communities for today and tomorrow.

Paul Tschirky, PhD, P.Eng, BC.CE, leads APTIM’s resilience practice, bringing full-service resilient solutions to clients and communities across the U.S. and helping them adapt to environmental and climate-driven risks. Paul has recently been appointed to Vice Chair for Community and Regional Resilience as part of the Society of American Military Engineers Resilience Community of Interest.THIS WEEK’S CONTRIBUTOR:
Paul Tschirky, PhD, P.Eng, BC.CE | Senior Director of Resilience
APTIM | Resilient Solutions

Paul Tschirky, PhD, P.Eng, BC.CE leads APTIM’s resilience practice, bringing full-service resilient solutions to clients and communities across the US and helping them adapt to environmental and climate-driven risks. Check out the first and second blogs of his series honoring the one-year anniversary of the Atlas of Disaster.


How to Create Resilient Communities and Infrastructure

In my previous blogs, we discussed climate-driven risks and the need for resilience within both built and natural infrastructure. Today, we will cover how to create solutions that address these challenges.

The Resilience Cycle

Solutions to improve resilience are best addressed by looking at the resilience cycle.

  1. Plan: The first step in developing resilient solutions is planning: understanding risks and putting mitigation and response solutions in place. This planning, performed prior to the event, may include vulnerability assessments, climate adaptation plans, emergency response plans, and engineering and design.
  2. Resist: Resourcing and implementation are required for the plan to be successful. During the event, the plans and systems put in place need to resist the consequences, lessen the loss of function, and expedite recovery. For example, engineers should not only design to prevent catastrophic failure but also consider ways to repair more quickly to regain useful function sooner.
  3. Recover: Immediately after the event, the focus is on recovery. This may include emergency response for debris removal, mass care, temporary power, and housing. Another critical part of recovery is funding both insurance and government disaster response. Understanding the funds available, how to access them, and how to track their use to ensure compliance can be challenging, and communities often need to seek specialized assistance to maximize potential aid.
  4. Adapt: Learning from previous response is critical to being better prepared for and recovering quicker from future disruptions.

Resilient Approaches

Resilient solutions include actions/inactions at the individual, project, or community level that impact the overall resilience of the interconnected systems. Approaches to improving resilience can include both physical measures and social ones.

Physical Measures

  • Engineered Structures: Seawalls, levees, breakwaters, revetments, storm surge barriers, drainage improvements, and floodwalls and gates
  • Nature-Based Approaches: Sediment management, beaches and dunes, wetlands, living shorelines, and reefs
  • Technology: Modeling, mapping, monitoring, water management systems, and warning and education systems

Social Measures

  • Education: Tools, mapping, and accurate and understandable information/data for public and decision makers
  • Stewardship: Non-governmental organizations and community and school programs
  • Government: Policy and regulations, land use, building codes, acquisition, and incentives

Resilient Strategies

Some strategies to improve resilience of a system or system elements include hardening, protecting, monitoring, relocating, and replacing systems or system elements.

  • Harden
    • Use more substantial structural members to withstand larger loads.
    • Use more resilient construction materials.
  • Protect
    • Provide barriers, such as floodwalls or reinforced slopes, between facility and threat.
    • Provide setback distances from neighboring threat.
    • Restore and conserve adjacent ecosystems (wetlands, vegetation, beaches/dune, reefs, etc.).
  • Monitor
    • Maintain regular and post-incident monitoring.
    • Use monitoring to make action decisions or assess performance.
  • Relocate
    • Relocate transportation infrastructure to higher ground or away from hazards.
    • Move critical utilities to higher floors or reinforced rooms.
  • Replace
    • Plan for alternate emergency and evacuation routes.
    • Have backup for key elements to return systems to functioning quickly after an event.
    • Establish alternative communication and dispatch systems.
Future-Looking Resilience

The built environment is intertwined with the natural environment, and our communities rely on both. Resilience is centered on having a strong plan, ready resources, and the ability to respond and adapt. Resilient solutions are at the heart of climate adaptation, protection of critical infrastructure, and preparation of our communities for today and tomorrow.

In 2023, public funding and private investment, expedited by the Infrastructure Bill, raised awareness and created opportunities for action. Let’s make 2024 the year when resilience is part of all infrastructure decision making, whether it be new or repair, built or natural systems—where sound choices today will have lasting impacts on our communities.

Let APTIM Help

APTIM is an award-winning, nationally recognized leader in disaster recovery, coastal engineering, grants management, flood mitigation, and program management. We take a holistic approach to resilience, understanding that multiple systems impact the success or failure of a community. With thousands of employees in strategic locations nationwide, we provide the resources you need for the preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation from all hazards. Learn more here.

APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.

Connect with APTIM

Learn more about our capabilities in climate and urban resilience planning, emergency management, and assisting clients with federal funding.

    Subscribe to the APTIM Xchange Newsletter

    APTIM's newsletter, The APTIM Xchange, provides industry news flashes, regulatory updates, service spotlights, and topical columns from our subject matter experts.