23 Mar Weather Resistant
Global Opportunity 2015 | SIEMENS
City residents and businesses rely on intelligent infrastructure systems. But new thinking is needed to create resilient cities, says Michael Stevns, Partnership Manager, Centre of Competence Cities, Siemens, UK
We are not very well adapted to our current weather. Strong wind, heavy snow and intense rainfall are already disrupting our daily routines and lives, and in the future, even average weather will challenge our ability to cope.
Across the globe, we are experiencing an increasing frequency of extreme weather-related events. These events are playing out against a backdrop of global population growth and urbanisation, leading to a complex knot of interrelated pressures on our cities.
City-based residents and businesses depend on the effective and reliable operation of infrastructure systems to deliver energy, mobility, water, sanitation, information and other critical services. Cities need a new way of thinking about how they plan, design, build and manage this essential infrastructure under more challenging conditions.
It’s important that new and existing infrastructure with long operational lifetimes are capable of coping with the climate they will experience over their lifetime.
Measures to make infrastructure structures more resilient to extreme events often take a long time and incur significant cost. Technological development is opening new paths for protecting infrastructure.
The increased use of ICT, like field devices and sensors, either embedded in new systems or retrofitted onto existing ones, is making infrastructure more intelligent and offering enhanced capabilities to monitor and control infrastructure assets.
These developments can provide operators with feedback of the conditions and performance of their networks, enabling diversion of resources to where the supply is most critical.
This can, for example, ensure that hospitals and fire stations have sufficient power to maintain their function during a natural catastrophe, diverting power from non-essential facilities so that the networks fail in a ‘safe’ and predictable manner.
The world is becoming more connected as a result of billions of pieces of equipment talking to each other. The physical world is being complemented by a digital layer, linking up and processing the abundance of data being generated.
This digitalisation means that infrastructure networks are converging towards each other and becoming more interconnected. The sharing of information across systems and organisations can provide a holistic view of the city and optimise performance for all networks.
This integration of systems offers greater flexibility, coordination and redundancy, allowing systems to provide a smoother, more efficient daily service while also being more capable of managing the stresses associated with peak demand and unusual events that can affect capacity in parts of the system.
Designing infrastructure systems as a ‘mesh network’ with pockets of local, self-sustained water and energy services can ensure continued operation in times of disruption.
These infrastructure ‘islands’ can operate independently of the grid, but are connected to the main grid – a concept which can be scaled for different applications and implemented at a nano-grid level, i.e. buildings, or at a micro-grid level such as hospitals, campuses or almost any high priority area.
ICT should accompany such decentralised designs, ensuring proper monitoring and management of the total network. Local decentralised solutions have benefits besides being more resilient. Efficiency is increased by locating generation close to consumption, which also reduces costs and losses associated with distribution.
Intelligent infrastructure and automated processes can be a quick and cost-effective way to increase resiliency, resulting in better use of existing infrastructure, increased efficiency, reduced operation costs, and reduced environmental burdens.
To substantiate such a claim, Siemens has partnered with Arup and Regional Plan Association in exploration of how technology can increase the resilience of urban infrastructure systems. The findings are presented in two reports: “Toolkit for Resilient Cities” and “Resilient Urban Mobility,” the latter of which was launched in February 2015.
These studies provide a loose framework for assessing the resilience of infrastructure systems and showcase a number of technologies within the energy, water, building and transportation domains that could render the systems more resilient towards external shocks and stresses.
In both studies a number of ‘what-if’ scenarios are established. In “Toolkit for Resilient Cities” the cost and benefits of introducing an effective system of smart technologies for the electricity distribution network are examined, finding that these investments would yield net benefits of up $2.5bn over a 20 year period.
“Resilient Urban Mobility” uses a similar approach but focuses on the benefits of applying smart transport technologies in Ho Chi Minh City – a fast growing city exposed to extreme weather.
Rapid urbanisation and increasing incomes means that the city is struggling with seemingly ever-increasing congestion, stifling economic opportunities as a result. For example, the number of delay minutes is forecast to increase by 750 per cent over the next 30 years if no investments in transportation infrastructure are undertaken.
Adding intelligence to the transport network would both improve the flow of traffic on a daily basis and reduce the effects of the frequent flooding that the city is experiencing.
Our work is not uniquely applicable to the selected cities. The technologies and derived benefits are valid in any city exposed to extreme weather events and challenged by rapid urbanisation regardless of size and stage of economic development.