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Hot Topics - Monday, Dec 6

Monday, December 6, 2021

Come Hell and High Water: Building Resilience for a Sustainable Houston 
Laura Patino, City of Houston; Sharon Citino, Houston Public Works; Stephen Costello, City of Houston; Adam Eaton*, Houston Public Works

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area with one trillion gallons of rain over three days. No other large American city has endured such a natural disaster in modern times. In the five years since, Houston has recovered from six more federally declared flooding disasters, including Tropical Storm Imelda in September 2019, that tested the limits of the City’s physical and fiscal infrastructure. These storms and the cumulative impacts and recovery effort were the catalyst that led to unprecedented momentum to address the challenges Houston faces. Not only is Houston especially susceptible to devastating flooding events, but it is also expected to endure temperatures above 100° F for fifty-five days per year by 2100, which will further threaten health, livelihoods, and infrastructure.

In the face of increasingly severe and potentially more frequent climatic changes, Houston adopted Resilient Houston, a progressive and ambitious framework aimed at strengthening the City’s ability to address and recover from acute shocks and chronic stresses. The plan identifies the goals, targets, and actions necessary to ensure safety and equity, encourage innovation and adaptation, and live safely with water to better serve all Houstonians, present and future.

This presentation will include discussion of the Resilient Houston framework and a detailed look at how Harvey Recovery programs, large-scale hazard mitigation projects, and One Water and Stormwater Master Planning efforts are being utilized to support health, housing, and economic development to ensure equity for all Houstonians. 

Doing the Right Projects on the United States-Mexico Border
Moderator: Anthony Kane, Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure
Speakers: Oscar Cortes, Federacion Mexicana de Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles; David Baxter, World Association of Public Private Partnerships; Calixto Mateos-Hanel, North American Development Bank (invited)

The border between the United States and Mexico extends 1,954 miles spanning communities, cities, rivers, and areas of environmental significance. People, goods, and services regularly cross this border facilitated by large systems of infrastructure. For both countries the economic impact of these infrastructure systems extends far beyond the border region itself. This panel will explore the importance of cross-border infrastructure as both countries work toward a sustainable and resilient future. Specifically, the panel will consider the sectors of energy, water, and transportation that are critical to the well-being and economies of communities on both sides of the border.

As an example of how market forces drive cross-border infrastructure development, in Baja California Mexico is currently developing renewable energy sources to help supply the growing demand for renewable energy in Southern California. Meanwhile, in northern Mexico natural gas imported from Texas is a significant source of energy. In February 2021 the arctic weather disaster in Texas led to cutoffs of natural gas to Mexico leaving almost 5 million people without power and halting manufacturing. This highlights the interdependence of communities on cross-border infrastructure.

If planned well cross-border infrastructure can increase sustainability and resilience. However, if not planned well, it can become a new source of risk and exacerbate the impacts of natural disasters on a national scale. The panel will assess the challenges and opportunities of cross-border infrastructure through the lenses of governance, development, and finance.


Incorporating Holistic Sustainability and Resilience into Civil Engineering Projects
Donovan Finn, Stony Brook University; Caroline Field, Ove Arup & Partners; Jarrod Loerzel, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Elaina Sutley*, University of Kansas

Investing in sustainability and resilience in the context of civil infrastructures systems delivers value by reducing disruption, speeding recovery, connecting our communities, supporting our way of life, delivering productivity gains and economic growth, reducing environmental impact, and providing enhanced protection. However, these types of investments are not codified, leaving stakeholders asking “how?” This session will ask panelists thought-provoking questions on what practices in design, planning, and operation of civil infrastructure projects can deliver social, economic, and environmental value to communities. Four panelists, from diverse backgrounds, will draw from their experiences with measuring and enhancing community capacities across the lifecycle of an infrastructure project. They will cover organizational functionality, environmental justice and social equity, local-level recovery planning, and measuring resilience value from a community housing project, each expanded herein. Questions and discussions from this session are transferrable to a range of actors beyond civil engineers, including urban planners, policy makers, or regional developers, preferably collectively in a collaborative manner across these groups.  The session will designate 30 minutes to open discussion with the audience, and will conclude with a synthesis from the moderator.

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