Skip to main content

Sustainable Infrastructure for Resilient Urban Environments

Final Report Summary - SIRUE (Sustainable Infrastructure for Resilient Urban Environments)

The Sustainable Infrastructure for Resilient Urban Environments (SIRUE) project has been carried out at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, and is funded by European Commission 7th Framework programme during 2012-2014. The project aims to identify how the use of underground space and its physical infrastructure influence, interact with, and impact on sustainability, vulnerability and resilience of urban areas, both now and in the future. Sustainability, in the context of Urban Infrastructure (UI) taking into account the rights of the future generations, including important issues such as ‘quality of life’, resource efficiency, biodiversity conservation and clean environment restoration. Sustainable UI facilitates a city (or region) in achieving sustainable urban development. The SIRUE project focuses on physical infrastructure, which is a set of physical objects, structures, and buildings interconnected functionally. Urban Physical Infrastructure (UPI) is assumed to encompass a set of man-made structures (e.g. roads, bridges, canals, tunnels, conduits, pipes and cables) that provide transport and communication links in addition to energy and matter flows.

Urban Underground Infrastructure (UUI) forms a key component of UPI, and the SIRUE project. UUI represents a very important, in many ways critical asset of any city; however its visibility during planning and urban development decision-making processes is often overlooked because the service functions it provides are secondary to the (re)development agenda (Bobylev, 2012) and this is a mind-set the SIRUE project would wish to change. By focusing on UUI, the family of UI has been considered within SIRUE, this includes transport, water, waste, and energy. This highly integrated approach is important because of common features and interconnections of different UI types. In so doing the SIRUE has been showing that the contemporary challenges related to sustainability and resilience are paramount for envisioning UI and UUI within the context of a modern city.

The project consists of four work packages: WP1 Investigating the role and requirements of the UUI; WP2 Developing a UUI framework for assessment of sustainability and resilience; WP3 Assessing strengths and vulnerabilities of present day UUI solutions; and WP4 Assessing UUI solutions for future resilience and sustainability. Each work package represents a study of an array of challenges, phenomena, and analytical outputs. Work packages are designed to be focused on specific scholarly problems, rather than on research areas, objects, or subjects; thus many phenomena (like urbanization, impacts of UUI) are studied in each work package, but from different angles / perspectives. Contents and outputs to-date of the work packages are detailed below.

UUI has been characterised in terms of its role within urban centres as a key element of critically functioning system, enabling resilience of urban areas and uninterrupted provisioning of critical services. The key contributing elements to understanding of holistic UUI role in urban resilience has been identified as (1) the functional mix of provided services, their critical nature and possible interdependence, (2) coverage of services by specific infrastructures, including alternative providers, (3) energy/matter share flowing through specific infrastructures compared to a total in a specific area, (4) density of physical structures constituting the UUI.