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Building resilience

Engineering professor addresses infrastructure design under a changing climate


By Jackey Locke

Climate change has been a global concern for generations. While the most recent global pandemic is dominating our thoughts and news stations these days, the threat of climate change remains a daunting reality.

Dr. Joseph Daraio
Dr. Joseph Daraio
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Joseph Daraio, an engineer and assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, is doing his part in the fight against climate change.

Climate change considerations

Dr. Daraio’s research considers sustainable infrastructure design to ensure resilience to climate change impacts on bridges, culverts and other flooding related issues.

Through his research, he is working with fellow engineers and local experts raising awareness, building capacity and training them on ways to consider climate change when making decisions about new infrastructure.

“At present, climate change, such as trends of increasing precipitation, is not consistently incorporated into infrastructure design in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Daraio.

“Integrating climate change considerations into infrastructure and development decisions will increase the likelihood that new infrastructure investments will be able to withstand the climate of the future.”

Workshops for professionals

The goal is to balance required improvements in infrastructure due to climate change with the costs associated with construction.

Dr. Daraio’s research focuses on building and sustaining infrastructure resilience through targeted climate adaptation training and awareness workshops for professionals.

His workshops apply climate adaptation tools and resources, developed by the provincial government, tailored to the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador and use supporting policy developments that better integrate the application of these tools and resources in tender requirements.

A series of three workshops on how to build climate-resilient infrastructure have already taken place. The first in 2018 provided professional engineers and municipal planners with an overview of the climate change projections for the province, the tools available that allow for incorporation of climate change into planning and design and the coastal monitoring program.

A second training workshop was held in 2019, and consisted of climate change considerations in asset management and the emerging legal framework in Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada regarding climate change and professional liability.

The third workshop, which took place this past November, focused on flood risk mapping; coastal erosion; and infrastructure planning and design with climate change uncertainty.

“Know-what” and “know-how”

“The project continues with research on the considerable challenges that remain regarding how to use existing and new knowledge to build resilience and adaptive capacity into civil infrastructure,” said Dr. Daraio.

“This gap in our knowledge includes both “know-what” and “know-how” in applying concepts and results of risk and resilience assessments for climate change adaptation to real world systems.”

Dr. Daraio added that while traditional approaches to infrastructure planning and design often focuses on optimization of reliability and robustness of an infrastructure asset, such as a culvert or bridge, his research focuses on adaptation and resilience to climate change to integrated natural and built infrastructure systems.

“Congratulations to Dr. Daraio for leading this important research project,” said Dr. Greg Naterer, dean of Engineering and Applied Science. “Through Dr. Daraio’s research and workshops, climate change factors will be incorporated into the planning and design of new infrastructure. This will reduce the vulnerability and risk of our communities to natural hazards now and in the future.”

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