With communities around the country working to recover after an autumn full of natural disasters, the key will be to not to simply rebuild but to rebuild better.

Civil engineering is nothing if not resilient.

And in many cases that means learning from failure and building back better. In the aftermath of a series of extreme events this autumn in North America, now is the time to do just that.

“Maybe this is an opportunity to think about how to rebuild in a more resilient way,” said Youn Sim, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, head of the Strategic Planning and Sustainability Office and Sustainability and Innovation Officer for Los Angeles County Public Works, during the ASCE 2017 International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure, in Brooklyn.

Youn Sim

Youn Sim

“It’s an opportunity to think over the overall infrastructure planning and building to improve the infrastructure in general.”

To that end, Sim suggested three critical components to building back better:

1. Listen and communicate with the community before you build

Listen to the community so you’re building back the infrastructure that people truly want and need. That also means working closely with the relevant industry stakeholders (engineering, technology, and financial sectors). This will help rebuild in a most efficient and resilient manner.

2. Plan your infrastructure in an integrated way

The community doesn’t distinguish water from transportation or other structures. They think of it as one infrastructure system serving citizens. So should you.

Infrastructure, planned as a one integrated system, will improve efficiency and reveal cost-saving opportunities. It will also incentivize private investment on infrastructure.

3. Change your engineering practice

This is a perfect time to reconsider everything you do, from codes to process. Consider performance-based standards and outcome-oriented strategies. This is your chance to build resiliency into the system.

Learn more about the ASCE 2017 International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure.

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