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5 engineering solutions raising the bar for climate-resilient infrastructure

11 July 2023

A report by the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) showcases innovative and sustainable projects around the world.

5 engineering solutions raising the bar for climate-resilient infrastructure
These solutions benefit the people and the planet. Image credit: Asian Development Bank

Climate change is often experienced in the form of disasters and extreme weather that wreak havoc on communities and infrastructure.

Ensuring infrastructure is sustainable and resilient is crucial to improving the ability of communities everywhere to adapt, minimising disruption and saving lives.

As part of its contribution to the #RacetoResilience campaign, the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) has been collating excellent examples of climate-resilient infrastructure initiatives across the globe.

These have been compiled into the recently published Climate Resilient Infrastructure Report.

The case studies showcase practical solutions that champion a people- and planet-centric approach to embedding sustainability and resilience in infrastructure.

Below are five great examples:

1. Climate resilience of watersheds – Nepal

water treatment nepal
Image credit: Asian Development Bank

This project provided a reliable water supply for domestic and agricultural use for more than 51,000 households in mountain communities.

This was achieved by enhancing the resilience of watersheds through interventions such as plantations, bioengineering, construction of check dams and gabion walls to control landslides.

As a result, communities were able to manage water and land in an integrated and inclusive manner. Catchment management was improved, enhancing water reliability and accessibility.

By the end of the project, during the dry season, the availability of irrigation water increased to 0.75 litres per second per hectare.

Domestic water collection increased by 50%.

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2. Community-based water stewardship – China

The Dongjiang River provides drinking water for 40 million people in southern China, including urban and rural populations.

In rural areas that lack wastewater treatment facilities, sewage seeps into the river, compromising its function as a freshwater ecosystem providing drinkable water.

To address this, a project is being run in rural areas of Guangdong to implement nature-based solutions for water treatment.

Community participants in two local villages led the design and construction of water treatment systems that mimic wetlands’ ability to purify water contaminated by chemicals and waste.

The systems use a combination of ecosystems and conventional treatment to clean the water.

Up to 9,000 tons of sewage is treated annually in the villages.

Compared with traditional infrastructure, the constructed wetland system doesn’t consume electricity, and the growth of aquatic plants helps to capture and store carbon.

Find out more

3. Apalachicola Bay living shoreline – Florida

living shoreline florida
Image credit: WSP

Apalachicola Bay is at considerable risk from coastal erosion and sea level rise.

There are concerns about a six-mile segment of Highway 98 – a crucial hurricane evacuation route – which lies directly at the water’s edge and is vulnerable to erosion.

Previous efforts to stabilise the shoreline using man-made defences have failed, as they cannot repair themselves after wave damage.

In response, a nature-based solution was adopted. It involved establishing an intertidal marsh through the introduction of oyster reefs to reduce wave energy.

This includes creating up to 20 acres of engineered oyster reefs and up to 30 acres of salt marshes, also providing ecological uplift in the region.

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4. Gravity smart campus – Somerset

This development project, which proposes to house 1.1 million m² of manufacturing and associated uses and 750 residential dwellings, is led by a strategy of clean and inclusive growth.

This includes a design for supporting the drainage system that exceeds current minimum requirements, taking into account the expected future strain on these systems caused by climate change.

Through water attenuation, designs have been implemented to reduce flooding and improve the return of water to the soil, addressing the loss of water to rivers following heavy rain or a dry spell.

Resilience and sustainability have been key considerations in the construction of a new link road connecting the site to the main highway.

A biodiversity strategy has been implemented, while solar power is used for the site compound, lighting for road signage and bollards.

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5. La Gogue dam – Seychelles

la gogue dam seychelles
Image credit: PUC

The raising of La Gogue dam is one of the major ongoing projects in Seychelles. It will increase the storage capacity of the dam by 60%.

With most of the country’s population relying on the dam as their primary water source, the aim of the project is to improve water storage systems, thereby increasing climate resilience and reducing water rationing.

The raising of the dam is expected to reduce energy costs and dependency on bottled water, and to improve sanitation facilities in schools.

The country’s economy will also benefit, as the dam will support industries such as tourism and manufacturing.

Find out more

Harnessing expertise

These case studies provide promising examples of how the engineering community can be mobilised to enhance the resilience of the built environment and improve the ability of communities to adapt to climate impacts.

It’s vital that inclusive, innovative solutions are adopted and prioritised.

Harnessing the expertise of the engineering community is crucial to achieving this goal.

Moving beyond strategy

To find out more about the report and to hear from people working on implementing resilient infrastructure solutions, register to attend the ICE’s 18 July Strategy Session.

The session, titled ‘Moving beyond strategy: how do we accelerate implementation of resilience in infrastructure systems?’, is free to attend.

Register now
  • Savina Carluccio, executive director at International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI)