Jan 24, 2021

Climate Change: Understanding Systemic Shocks in Integrated Infrastructures


Climate change impacts concern all cities, from Auckland to Zhuhai, although the effects are likely to be geographically uneven. In Future Cities literature, one potential solution to such uncertainties is the integration of critical urban infrastructures and city systems.

What is integrated infrastructure?

We define ‘infrastructure’ as encompassing both the ‘hard’ infrastructures (e.g. energy, water, transport, waste, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and green infrastructure) and the ‘soft’ social structures they are governed by and serve (e.g. communities, organisations, institutions, their decision-making processes and economic systems). In the broadest sense, integrated infrastructure systems might cater for physical resource demands alongside the increasing appetite for ICTs, whilst simultaneously addressing the decarbonisation and financial austerity agendas. Why consider integrated infrastructure now?

The effects of climate change are occurring now. Our city systems need to rapidly adapt to mitigate these effects, and the scale of the challenge is grand. Climate change impacts concern all cities, from Auckland to Zhuhai, although these effects are likely to be geographically and socially uneven. One solution that has been suggested to the uncertain impact of climate change on urban life is the integration of critical urban infrastructures and city systems. As such, integrated infrastructures are thought to provide enhanced efficiency, resilience and adaptability. However, work concerning their resilience to climate change induced systemic shocks is scarce. We need to understand the strengths and / or vulnerabilities afforded by such integration to provide an evidence base for future infrastructure design and investment strategies.

The Network

The Integrated Infrastructure Network (IIN) is an international collaboration that brings together diverse researchers and practitioners to explore the potential strengths and vulnerabilities of integrated infrastructure. Our approach is unique in three ways. First, in creating a large transdisciplinary team, we hope to stimulate a research programme that spans individual interest to create a grand vision for research into integrated infrastructure. Second, we are a bespoke global collection of academics and practitioners brought together to explore this international question. Third, our approach bridges the traditionally isolated perspectives of engineers and social scientists. The challenges we face are too great to rely on isolated technical, organisational or behavioural interventions.