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’Lack of joined up thinking is putting UK’s built enviornment at risk’ warn Loughborough University academics


A Loughborough University research project has highlighted a lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ in emergency planning for the protection of the UK built environment.

The ongoing study is being led by a team of academics from the University’s Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC). Its aim is to assess how a safe, secure and sustainable built environment can be achieved by reducing the frequency and impact of natural and manmade disasters that result in damage to infrastructure, built assets and loss of human life. A key part of the project is the development of a decision support framework to assist built environment professionals, such as architects, urban planners and civil engineers, and other relevant stakeholders.

There is growing concern for the safety and security of the UK’s civil infrastructure in relation to natural and manmade disasters. Safeguarding the future requires the expertise of professionals involved in the design, planning and construction of the built environment. This is particularly important if you want to ensure that safeguards have the long-term vision to not only protect this generation, but future generations also. However early findings from the IMCRC research show that emergency planning in the UK is not sufficiently integrated with the activities of the construction sector.

As part of the research, questionnaire surveys were used to review the opinions of more than 100 professionals involved with emergency planning, construction, urban planning and insurance on issues related to emergency planning in the UK. So far the research has highlighted that:

• The most significant threats to the built environment in the UK were perceived to be floods, climate change, ageing/inadequate infrastructure, and inadequate urban planning. Minor threats were perceived to be civil unrest/war and terrorism. Only those with responsibility for public safety (such as emergency managers and urban planners) believed that terrorism is a significant threat to the UK.

• Awareness of natural/human-induced/climate change related hazards tends to be most prominent with respondents who govern/advise on the built environment, rather than those who actually design, build and operate it.

• There was a general lack of awareness demonstrated by the respondents regarding who is responsible for, and involved with, emergency planning and consultation in the UK.

• Of those who construct the built environment, only 30 per cent are involved in emergency planning in most cases, and one third are involved on an ad-hoc basis. Three quarters of the respondents agreed that there is a pressing need for disciplines associated with the construction industry to become more involved with emergency planning in the UK.

Project leader Dr Lee Bosher, who is based in the University’s Department of Civil and Building Engineering, said: “These early findings indicate a lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ regarding the protection of the UK built environment and suggest that professions involved with the construction industry, and the expertise they can offer, need to become more integrated with emergency management if lessons are to be learnt from the past, and a resilient built environment created in the future. This could be achieved by embracing a strategic framework that integrates a wide range of disciplines from the construction sector.”

In light of these early findings, the research team would welcome the views and opinions of professionals involved with all aspects of the construction sector in relation to the ways in which the industry could contribute towards the development of a safer and more secure built environment in the future.

Judy Smyth | alfa
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