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Materials suppliers: Let’s help create disaster-resilient cities

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Since the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, “disaster-resilience” has become a headlining topic all over North American news. Its prevalence has only increased with reports of heavy rains, flooding, tornados, droughts, earthquakes and other extreme weather events around the world.

These events have cost governments, citizens and insurance companies billions of dollars. And according to the scientific community, it will only get worse. Severe weather is said to increase in both frequency and impact, as temperatures and sea levels rise.

 

Over the past several months, talk of disaster-resilient cities has drawn much-needed attention to our aging infrastructure. As it stands, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given United States infrastructure a D+ grade, estimating costs at $3.6 trillion just to repair our systems—to say nothing of bolstering them for future disasters.

 

Though the situation is disappointing, it seems the publicity has been positive. No longer able to deprioritize the issue, many governments have starting committing to invest more heavily in repairing infrastructure in preparation for the future—whatever it may bring.

 

In his recent climate-policy speech, President Obama noted the United States will need much “more resilient infrastructure… stronger sea walls, natural barriers, hardened power grids, hardened water systems, hardened fuel supplies.” Obama went on to say that the federal government would allow access to its climate data, so that regional governments can assess risk under different climate scenarios and not “waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.”




This last point is where we feel that we—Hamilton Kent, and all infrastructure materials suppliers—have a clear responsibility.

 

 

Though the buck may legally stop with governments, we are accountable to our customers and the communities in which we operate to help create disaster-resilient infrastructure. If we don’t want decision-makers wasting money on structures that will fail, we need to ensure that we are designing durable and high-performance products built to withstand extreme circumstances.

 

We believe this responsibility is especially critical for those companies—like us—that create products for water management systems. During significant weather events, a water management system’s resilience can mean the difference between temporary inconveniences and serious health and environmental consequences.

 

In rising to the challenge and taking our roles seriously to help create disaster-resilient cities, we also see a worthwhile business opportunity for materials suppliers. Engineering more durable, higher-performance infrastructure products will position innovative companies as leading-edge suppliers, and lead to more business.

 

There are no one-size-fits-all answers to what disaster-resilience looks like. It’s a relatively new concern, and no city is the same. The future will no doubt hold much stakeholder debate about budgets and planning. At the end of the day, however, we believe one thing is clear: infrastructure materials suppliers can and should be a part of the solution.

 

Where do we start? Let’s begin by talking about our roles, exchanging ideas about our challenges and strengths, and by making disaster-resilience a priority in our research and development.

 

Let’s discover how we can engineer infrastructure to withstand catastrophic events—natural, climate change-driven, and man-made—and to be able to bounce back more quickly and maybe even stronger than before.

 

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