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Resilience Workshop

Bounce Forward: Moving Communities from Crisis to Resilience

The Center for Resilient Communities (CRC) in the McCormick School of Engineering held its inaugural workshop on April 19 & 20, 2018, at the Allen Center on Northwestern University. Experts—including NUTC director Hani Mahmassani and NUTC faculty, Professors Amanda Stathopoulos and Joseph Schofer—discussed policy and decision making under uncertainty, designing for diversity and equity, and sustaining the vibrancy of cities. The workshop was organized by Professor Kimberly Gray, CRC director, CEE Department Chair and NUTC Faculty Affiliate.

Professor Gray said she aimed to explore the definition of resilience and through presentations and conversations look at the actions that encompass a community resilience strategy in the age of rapidly changing climate, disruptive technology shifts, and economic and political uncertainty. “What will it take to foment change?” asked Gray. “Education, information, innovation and opportunity will all be needed.”

The workshop was a first-of-its-kind opportunity for engineers from several disciplines to learn and reflect on how engineers and engineering solutions are and will continue to be central to the science, data collection, policy interventions, and on-the-ground mitigation of the effects of climate change and sea level rise on coastal communities.

Professor Hani Mahmassani, NUTC director, in his talk “Economic Resilience and Mobility in Connected Cities,” noted how important it is to not forget about economic resilience while we are thinking about environmental change. Mahmassani says there are “new technologies that can help us get to win-win solutions and mitigate hard tradeoffs between solutions.”

In the transportation context, resiliency means the ability to recover from adversity (shock) and adapt through disruptive change. These are concerns of both users of transportation systems and of course the operating agencies. A key factor in resilient transportation systems will be in the greater decentralization of intelligences and critical information, and reconfigurable peer to peer networks, all of which are being tested and implement today. In the transportation space, the era between 1994 to 2018 can be characterized as heavy in the deployment of technology, but not very intelligent applications of it. “We are in a different realm today because of dispersed data,” says Mahmassani, “and that puts transportation ahead of other sectors in terms of its ability to respond to uncertain futures.”
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