Engineering Lifelines is an informal, regionally-based process of lifeline utility representatives working with scientists, engineers and emergency managers to identify interdependencies and vulnerabilities to regional scale hazards. This collaborative process provides a framework to enable integration of asset management, risk management and emergency management across utilities.
“…climate change is not a new hazard, it is an exacerbator…”
Lifelines projects take an all-hazards approach. While there has been a traditional emphasis on natural hazard events, work is also encompassing other hazards such as the threat of pandemic. Climate change is not a new hazard that needs to be managed separately from other meteorological hazards, but it may change the frequency and intensity of existing hazards, as well as introduce long-term shifts in climate patterns. As such, it should be treated as an exacerbator and dealt with through risk assessment as part of good management and planning.
The role of Lifelines Groups in dealing with climate change can be focused around:
Work in this area should be linked in with wider opportunities such as:
The National Engineering Lifelines Committee offers seminars on climate change and infrastructure. These seminars are delivered via regional Engineering Lifelines Groups.
Contact the National Engineering Lifelines Co-ordinator, Dave Brunsdon, at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
For more information on engineering in relation to climate change, see our engineering-related publications.
As our infrastructure is renewed and upgraded, and our urban environment grows and develops, we are faced with a unique opportunity to address the impacts of climate change and plan for the future. This will make our infrastructure both more resilient to our current hazards and less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in New Zealand.
The long average lifetime of urban buildings means the design of new structures must account for climate scenarios several decades into the future. Generally, infrastructure design is based on past climate conditions. However, given the climate changes expected over the next century, these historic conditions are no longer accurate indicators for planning, maintenance and upgrades. Infrastructure needs to adapt to new climate risks to ensure safety and quality of life, as well as reduce long-term costs.
Based on the possible increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the biggest direct threat to urban areas is likely to come from heavy rainfall and associated floods. Increased peak flows within urban catchments will put pressure on stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.
Potential increases in heavy rainfall would likely cause more road erosion and require more frequent repair work, while new structures such as bridges may need to accommodate higher flood peaks in their design. However, roads traditionally affected by winter closures (such as the Desert Road and several roads in the central and southern South Island) could incur reduced winter maintenance costs due to less frost and snowfall.
Because our urban environments are likely to endure greater exposure to extreme events in the future, there could also be increased demand for maintenance and upgrades. Energy transmission networks, such as towers and their supports, may suffer damage from higher winds, or storms. Stormwater networks may need to accommodate more intense precipitation.
For more information see:
Last updated: 26 October 2010