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Infrastructure Resilience Conference 2018

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Designing Resilient Flood Risk Reduction Systems

A number of catastrophic flood events, such as hurricane Katrina (2005) and the Tohoku tsunami in Japan (2011), have led to the exploration of new design concepts in the field of flood management. These concepts aim to prevent sudden (or brittle) failure of the infrastructure, minimization of damages due to the flood event and / or relatively quick recovery. However, standards and guidelines for incorporating resilience are mostly lacking. This article will summarize and discuss different resilience concepts, also using examples and case studies. A framework is presented illustrating how resilience can be incorporated in different elements of a flood risk reduction system and the associated infrastructure ranging from levees to infrastructure affected by failure of levees. Firstly, the concept can be included in the design of flood defence systems. Traditionally, flood defences are designed to safely withstand a certain design water level. These are usually associated with a certain return period, ranging from 100 years (typically used in the US) to 10,000 years (used in parts of the Netherlands). New design approaches focus on the performance and resilience of the flood defence beyond the design load. Examples include the levees in New Orleans that were designed after Katrina to be resilient to severe overtopping and overflow beyond the design conditions. Also, in the reconstruction of coastal defences in Japan an additional resilience criterion for severe overflow for a very rare tsunami was included. Secondly, once flooding occurs damages to infrastructure and houses can be minimized by incorporating resilience in their design. Examples of design principles for bridges and roads are discussed. Also, resilience concepts can be incorporated to minimize the likelihood of cascading impacts from one infrastructure. In a closing discussion, directions for further development of resilience concepts and the associated research needs are highlighted. It is discussed how risk-based approaches could inform decisions on the cost-effectiveness of resilience interventions. Also, further physical and experimental research is required to evaluate the performance of infrastructures in loading conditions beyond the design standards.

Sebastiaan N. Jonkman
Delft University of Technology

Mathijs van Ledden
World Bank Group
United States

Jeremy D. Bricker
Delft University of Technology


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