Jo da Silva, Director of Arup’s International Development team, has been chosen as the lecturer for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)’s 9th Brunel International Lecture series.
Jo’s lecture, Shifting Agendas: Response to Resilience; The role of the engineer in disaster risk reduction, launches today at the Institution of Civil Engineers and calls for a new approach to disasters that prioritises creating resilient communities which are able to respond and adapt to changing circumstances and unexpected catastrophes.
In 2010, 300 million people were affected by disasters, and according to recent studies, the number of people living in cities that are vulnerable to earthquakes and cyclones will reach 1.5 billion by 2050.
Jo’s lecture challenges the traditional definition of civil engineering as ‘the art of directing the great sources of power in Nature for the use and convenience of mankind’. Engineers have a vital role to play in responding to disasters, from the provision of clean water, sanitation, shelter, and the transport infrastructure needed to facilitate delivery of food and medical supplies, to ensuring that we build back better, creating sustainable and resilient communities. Jo argues that it is time for civil engineers to recognise the fundamental role they have to play in reducing the vulnerability of mankind.
Jo will be the first woman to give this prestigious lecture, and is the third person from Arup to deliver it, following in the footsteps of David Singleton and Peter Head. She said: “It is an honour to have been invited to deliver the 9th ICE Brunel International Lecture series. I welcome this opportunity to share my perspective on the changing landscape of natural disasters and what this might mean for engineers in the future. My perspective draws on my own experiences working in post-disaster situations.
"I have seen first-hand not only the vital role engineers play reducing suffering in the aftermath of disasters, but also the critical role that infrastructure plays in reducing risk in the first place, and in catalysing recovery. Engineering skills are essential to combat the increasing risk posed by natural hazards as a result of urbanisation and climate change, and I hope that my lecture will inspire engineers worldwide to rise to this challenge.”
ICE President Richard Coackley said: “The Brunel International Lecture series is about sharing expert engineering knowledge and inspiring debate globally, and following in the steps of those who have gone before her Jo’s lecture is enlightening and visionary. The world around us is changing and engineers are crucial to how we adapt, respond and mitigate the impact of not just natural disasters but climate change, population growth and societal shifts such as urbanization. Jo is absolutely right to challenge traditional ways of thinking; innovating our practices is integral to the profession and its ability to find relevant solutions for society.”
The Brunel International Lecture series was instituted in 1999 in memory of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, 1806-1859, in recognition of his contribution to civil engineering. The inaugural lecture of each series is held at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London and then at selected international venues.
The first lecture is also available to watch online, either live or at any time after the event.