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Characterising the vulnerability of the built environment to tomorrow’s natural hazards

Project ID: 2228cc1449 (You will need this ID for your application)

Under Offer

Research Theme: Engineering

UCL Lead department: Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE)

Department Website

Lead Supervisor: Gemma Cremen

Industry partner: AXA XL

Stipend enhancement: £2,000 pa

Project Summary:

Climate change, population growth, and rapidly increasing urbanization call for an urgent need to understand the risk our built environment will face from future natural hazards. The hazard component of this risk is already well examined across a vast array of studies on future climactic conditions and a wide variety of techniques (e.g., cellular automata and machine learning algorithms) are available for tracking future exposure. However, there has been comparatively little attention paid to future vulnerability, which is the focus of this project. The project will specifically tackle the challenge of quantifying the future vulnerability of buildings, through a series of sequential research questions:

  1. What is the projected evolution of vulnerability for both new and existing buildings? Answering this will involve analysing potential adaptation and mitigation measures (e.g., changes in building codes, construction practices, government policies) that may emerge due to evolving perceptions of climate impacts, which will require a review of how vulnerability has changed historically.
  2. What is the improvement in vulnerability offered by retrofitting existing buildings? Answering this will lead to an understanding of how ageing and deterioration affect the response of buildings to natural-hazard events across their typical lifespan.
  3. How will the vulnerability of new buildings compare with retrofitted ones? Answering this will involve assessing how new or updated building codes may impact vulnerability over time.
  4. What is the relative influence of dynamic vulnerability on risk, compared to exposure? Answering this will leverage findings from previous questions and a typical method for characterising future exposure to determine the proportion of future changes in risk that can be attributed to dynamic vulnerability. The project will specifically focus on hurricane wind hazard in the USA, providing the student with critical skills/insights in engineering analysis methods, vulnerability modelling, and the greater context of disaster-risk management policymaking.