Resilience planning in a spatial framework

Photo: Joseph Abdo

Photo: Joseph Abdo

Tools that analyze data across departments and agencies enable decision-makers to generate tractable solutions to ill-defined problems. The development of spatial data infrastructures (SDI) to support resilience planning was the focus of a session at the Resilient Cities Congress organized jointly by ICLEI and Esri. SDI facilitate groups of people to work together by providing a set of generic tools that handle many of the tasks that are required multi-stakeholder planning: exchange of textual, numerical and graphical information, public consultations, consensus building, and voting.

The underlying principle of SDI is to incorporate geospatial thinking into problem solving. “It is best to understand where your vulnerabilities are early on, before a disaster strikes,”said Jim Geringer, director of policy and public sector strategies at Esri. Location becomes a way to integrate and relate information from multiple sources in useful and sometimes critical ways.

The City of Wuppertal, in Germany, has partnered with an engineering company to create an SDI that visualizes flood risk. Probable flow paths and topographic depressions were analyzed for the entire city area at a resolution of 25 cm. This hazard map was then overlaid with building data classified according to its use, as a proxy for vulnerability. Comparing hazard potential with vulnerability provides a snapshot of risk, and the resulting maps are now being used for emergency planning. Stefan Sander, a planner in Wuppertal, said that their SDI “streamlines data collection and analysis, and provides the basis for risk management and land-use plans.”

Web-based tools offer additional advantages, providing new ways to display data and communicate with citizens. Nico Tillie, a landscape architect in the Netherlands, demonstrated how the city of Rotterdam is using SDI to inform planning in the city of Rotterdam. The Resilient City Planner links traditional data inventories to mapping tools, creating a baseline of about one hundred variables that scores an area’s performance on an easy-to-read diagram linked to detailed digital maps.

SDI shows definite promise for resilience planning. Their strength lies in the supporting tools that produce quick scans of complex data to guide and rationalize planning for a variety of stakeholders. In this way, spatial data is enabling cities to build resilient futures.

Written by Lynn Rosentrater, Climate CoLab Contest Winner

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