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Sustainable Infrastructure and Climate Change Resilience

Speaker: Heather Morgan, Sustainability and Risk Management Lead, AECOM

Next Generation of Sustainable Infrastructure: Empowering Risk-Informed Decision Making in an Uncertain Climate Future

The United States’ infrastructure heritage pattern of placing static measures on dynamic systems and single measures on systemic problems has created a national terrain that is simply not sustainable. While the country gained extensive benefits in risk reduction, from flood risk management to water supply, the unforeseen tradeoffs of these large-scale anthropogenic alternations are surfacing at accelerated rates. Ms. Morgan showcases that many of the water resource projects, designed and built within the last 100 years, inherently undermine the insitu flow systems that host us and govern our water cycle. Ms. Morgan can showcase the urgency and examine how our inhabitations patterns have also compounded the fragmentation. She can depict how fundamental applications of sustainability and risk management for these large-scale problems, can help the country recalibrate its value system and design criteria for future “sustainable security” needs and redefine the relationship between our human infrastructure and the natural system.

Communities across our region are increasingly being introduced to major projects, approaches on how to prepare for an uncertain climate future, but how do we evolve our region’s aging assets? A project-based approach is insufficient to tackling the tremendous challenges in front of us and can fall short on engaging communities in decision-making. Adaptive capacity design trying to tackle systemic problems, will require full transparency and honest discourse on the pros and cons amongst each project partners (federal, state, local, or private) on available resources, funding vehicles, agility, and restraints. System thinking will need to include empowering and educating communities on their risk exposure to foster deeper involvement in the decisions before them and understanding the long-term benefits and responsibility that will come with these designs. In transitioning from the US Army Corps of Engineers, to the private sector again, and through her work on the South Battery Park Resiliency Project, Heather Morgan will explore and show, how clients like Battery Park City Authority and NYC communities, are taking the lead on this new world of climate crisis decision-making and an evolving value system.