Rotterdam is well known for its modern architecture and has a vibrant cultural scene with an eclectic variety of shops, restaurants and parks. It is home to Europe’s largest and one of the top ten most important ports in the world and from this naval and industrial heritage it is now emerging as an exciting and dynamic entrepreneurial hub.But we also foresee new risks and 21st century challenges in the (near) future, for example; digitization, climate change, the new economy and globalization. We know that we cannot become complacent and that these challenges need to be faced.
“Much of Rotterdam’s underground infrastructure is crucial for the city to function. The city is improving its old degraded infrastructure (e.g. gas networks and around 40km of sewer per year) whilst at the same time investing in new infrastructure that is fit for the future, for example, to support a clean energy transition and the next economy (digital),” says Chief Resilience Officer Arnoud Molenaar.
Rotterdam’s underground infrastructure is quite robust, but lacks flexibility to respond to emergencies, new technological developments and over ground development growth is limited. This brings some risks related to repair capacity, delivery of sub–optimal solutions and poor integration of above and below ground services.
“We want to increase resilience by enhancing the awareness of risk, developing a policy for more robust decision making; more integrated planning practice both underground and over ground, relating to infrastructural interventions. This requires a reinforcement of cooperation among all infrastructure managers, including the city as a platform to share plans and (often confidential) knowledge and information. We aim to create more specific databases and information on the location of infrastructure and functions and interdependencies of the subsurface. We will also explore how innovative SMART technology can be integrated into the ‘Street of the Future’. Our resilience strategy commits to action in each of these areas.”
The Rotterdam’s asset management team maintains and manages all assets in public spaces as well as a risk register. This includes items such as bridges and quay walls, but also green spaces and lighting. Asset management not only considers the costs and current status of the assets themselves, but also the potential risks that the failure of the assets could have on the functioning of the city. By mapping the risks, decisions can be made as to what measures should and should not be performed based on a balance of performance, risk and cost. Smart investments now can often deliver savings in the future. This program will develop protocols for the asset management of underground infrastructure, intended to support decision making in respect of maintenance and replacement.
Generally, risk management and spatial planning do not consider the costs and benefits of development in the longer term (i.e. the full life cycle considerations), but this could support effective decision making and help make the case for investment in redundancy. This is particularly prevalent in the context of underground critical infrastructure.
Rotterdam is preparing not only underground for the future and possible future shocks. An important part of the National Delta Program is the concept of “multi–layer safety”. This involves prevention (1st layer) spatial adaptation (2nd layer) and evacuation (3rd layer). The evacuation layer has yet to be fully planned and developed. The pilot study “crisis management during floods” found that vertical evacuation needs proper consideration as a serious option for layer 3. Specifically, consideration should be given to the fact that the highest areas are located along the river, outside the dykes and the entire port area. Rotterdam will develop a vertical evacuation plan as part of the resilience strategy implementation.