About BRW I

For a copy of BRW I’s program, click here.

The challenge of living with water is one shared by both cities and rural communities around the world.  Nowhere is this more true than in post-Katrina New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, where people live with a daily awareness of the threat, and opportunities, of water.  The first Building Resilience Workshop was held on February 26-27, 2010, at the Old US Mint in New Orleans.  Five keynote and plenary speakers joined forty panelists on six panels to explore innovative, sustainable ways of improving community resilience in the face of escalating flood risk due to global climate change.

The presentations and panels included discussions of sustainable flood mitigation practices and strategies to create safe, robust, permanent approaches to enhancing community and cultural resilience.  A primary goal of the workshop was to raise local awareness of innovative urban flood resilience strategies that were currently being implemented in other parts of the world.  Workshop speakers and participants addressed such questions as:

1. How have international communities, faced with repeated, catastrophic storm and flood events, maintained physical and social infrastructures?

2. What innovations have occurred in response to catastrophic events?

3. How can mitigation strategies that diffuse risk, as opposed to concentrating risk, reduce a community’s overall vulnerability and increase its resilience?

4. How might cultures share “best practices” and incorporate innovative, sustainable technologies more quickly?

5. What are the successful approaches that have been used elsewhere to overcome institutional resistance to change that inhibits the implementation of new strategies?

6. How can technical solutions be more responsive to social and cultural needs and traditional ways of life?

7. What are both the physical and cultural implications of redesigning cities for increased resilience?

8. What planning decisions can we make now that will help us build resilience, robustness and adaptability into our cities for the future?

We had four plenary speakers, plus Gen. Russel Honore’ as the Keynote speaker.  The rest of the program was panel discussions, where 6-8 panelists gave brief, 5-6 minute presentations, and then there was discussion first among the panel members and then with the audience.  We started with issues at the global scale, then regional and urban scale, then building scale, then community participation and policy implementation issues.  Larry Buss, retired from the USACE and longtime chair of the National Non-Structural Floodproofing Committee, was the initial plenary speaker, starting us off on Friday morning, prior to the panel on climate and global-scale issues.   Erik Pasche’s presentation on cascading levees, compartmentalization and temporary floodwall systems proceeded the panels on regional and urban scale issues on Friday afternoon, and Chris Zevenbergen’s presentation on amphibious housing in the Netherlands introduced the building scale issues on Saturday morning.  Jack Martin was the plenary speaker at lunch on Saturday, addressing how to achieve community participation and institutional support for implementing new policies.

Speakers from Germany, the Netherlands and across North America came together with local leaders to discuss how non-structural flood mitigation strategies such as wetlands restoration, cascading levee systems, temporary flood walls, amphibious housing and regenerative landscaping could be implemented in the Gulf Coast region in general and in New Orleans in particular.  It was a primary goal of the workshop to create greater awareness in the Gulf Coast region of approaches that were being implemented successfully in other parts of the world but may not yet be embraced in the United States.  The workshop encouraged an attitude of accommodating, rather than fighting, water, recognizing that we must learn to live in safety WITH water.  In the short term, the workshop brought together engineers, architects, planners and academic researchers specializing in sustainable flood protection practices with policy makers, community organizers and public officials, helping to expand the knowledge base, build exchange networks among participants, and develop solutions.  In the long term, we see the workshop as a springboard for the sharing of sustainable, low-impact technologies that save lives and make vulnerable communities, in North America and elsewhere, more resilient to climate change.

For more information, please contact: Elizabeth English, english@ecenglish.ca, 504-717-5098

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