How Do We Achieve Sustainable and Resilient Projects?

Author(s) T. Batroney, D. Nusser, M. Stirrup, B. Vatter
July 2015


The words “sustainable” and “resilient” have become widespread descriptors for infrastructure: resonating in brochures, ads, logos, business cards, magazines, and college curricula. These two words represent the current “holy grail” of our environmentally conscious society. More and more people want their communities, projects, methodologies to be sustainable and resilient.

Of all the environmental issues associated with sustainability in North America, “climate adaptation” and “resiliency” have emerged with a degree of urgency. In the U.S., Super Storm Sandy’s recent impact on the metropolitan and rural coastline in the states of New York and New Jersey raised awareness of the shortfall in funding for public facilities repair. The primary impacts resulted from surface water runoff, rising sea levels and the resulting storm surges and flooding. In addition to Super Storm Sandy, the U. S. has also experienced extended droughts in the West and recent unprecedented snowfall in New England and the Boston, MA area. These extreme events and most agree, “climate change” impacts have renewed the focus by the Regulators and engineering community, alike, to design approaches and retrofits which harden and protect infrastructure against these types of events.

But how do we define sustainable and resilient? How do we characterize sustainable and resilient attributes for specific infrastructure projects — whether energy, water, wastewater, transport, landscape, and/or information technology?