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New tool to help infrastructure cope with crises

Published: 12 June 2018 at 12:53

A dam in a rural location

NERC-funded study looks at interdependency between water, electricity and roads

Results of a six month project examining the vulnerability and resilience of UK infrastructure to extreme events will be presented at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London on Friday, 15 June.

The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has been led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University’s Department of Engineering and the Built Environment.

The academics will be showcasing their RV-DSS (Resilience & Vulnerability-based Interdependency Decision Support System) tool, which enables owners of critical infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity to model their interdependency, and measure the network’s resilience and vulnerability in the face of a hazardous event.

To develop the tool, the academics carried out research in the Scottish region of North Argyll.  The frequency and magnitude of environmental hazards in Scotland, and across the UK in general, have increased significantly in the last decade, resulting in widespread failures in critical infrastructure networks.

North Argyll was chosen because not only is it susceptible to extreme weather events, but it has a dispersed population, meaning it has an extensive water and electricity network stretching across remote, sparsely populated areas.  

They worked with Transport Scotland, energy company SSE, Scottish Water and Atkins to understand how each body relied upon the other, and also how their priorities were often very different.   

Dr Donya Hajializadeh, Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 

“Our research first involved sitting the three main infrastructure bodies around a table to discuss these issues. Getting these bodies to work together is very important. Water companies, for example, rely on electricity for their pumping stations and the road network, which in North Argyll is occasionally remote single track roads, for maintenance. 

“These bodies are all linked, but they have tended to work in silos and one of the first thing that struck us was how data sharing between the different bodies doesn’t flow perhaps as easily as it should do. 

“Interdependencies among critical infrastructure can cause cascading failures, which can amplify the consequences and affect service restoration. Our Resilience and Vulnerability-based Decision Support System (RV-DSS) allows infrastructure managers to map vulnerable parts of the interdependent network, and introduce adaptations to make them more resilient in the face of extreme environmental hazards.”

Friday’s event, at the Institution of Civil Engineers, will include a panel discussion featuring Graham Edmond, Senior Principal Civil Engineer at Transport Scotland, and Brian Simmons, Strategic Planner (Resilience) at Scottish Water.  To register for the free event, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/resilience-and-vulnerability-based-decision-support-system-rv-dss-tickets-46318275208