Interview Piet Dircke – Global Leader Water Management and Resilient Solutions

07 augustus 2019

Have you ever wondered what will happen to you if hit with a hurricane or tornado? Or be amidst of a social/economic or a political crisis? Have you thought how does your city handle the shocks and get back to its normality in terms of people, economics and infrastructure?

If not, its time to think about Resilience and reflect on the thoughts of Piet Dircke, Global Lead and an active advocate of Resilience.  Merlin Davis a global shaper working in Water Sector in the UK is asking some interesting questions to him to find out how can we be involved in creating resilience in the world we live.

As you are one of the faces of Resilient Cities in Arcadis, can you briefly write about the inspiration and background which attracted you to this field?

Piet Dircke: Living in the Netherlands, a living showcase for water, it is obvious that my passion has always been in Water Management, all my life. Since I was in secondary school I already knew that I wanted to contribute to a safe and sound water environment, with healthy catchment areas, enough water for nature, farmers, industries and cities in the dry times and solid flood protection during the wet times.

Recent insights in climate change and sea level rise, and major flood events, all over the world, with flooding in Europe and Australia, tornados in Asia and hurricanes in the USA like Katrina, Sandy and Harvey made me more aware of the impact of these events on the big cities where we together with so many of our clients live. And I understood that a flood cannot always be prevented, so we have to be resilient in our cities, and capable to cope with the stresses and shocks that can disrupt a city.

Very inspiring for me is to work with Rockefeller’s 100 resilient Cities, where I discovered that urban resilience is more than flood resilience, it also deals with earthquakes, bush fires, terrorist attacks and more.  And where I learned that pro-actively dealing with the challenges of urban resilience opens up new opportunities for cities and their communities, for economic development and a more quality of life. And I saw that Arcadis can play a significant role here, sharing its global experiences and best practices with all our clients worldwide!

Like Sustainability and Digital Transformation, is resilience going to be the next Buzz word for businesses in this fast-paced era?

That possibility will remain for all new fields, of course. In order to prevent Resilience from becoming a Buzz-word, the definition of Resilience is already clearly defined within Arcadis.

Resiliency: “A system’s and/or organization’s capacity to maintain, protect, develop and adapt its natural and built assets, dealing with chronic stresses and acute shocks, turning challenges into opportunities, improving the quality of life.”

Added to that, stresses and acute shocks are concretely mentioned in the resilience proposition 2019, which is soon to be launched, thereby minimizing chances of misinterpretation of Resilience.  Furthermore, the holistic nature of Resilience will be the new reality, as a perimeter protection alone will not do anymore.

Why do you think it’s a good idea to have a more passionate younger professionals’ group around Resilient Cities? Do you have a feeling that they are not resonating as much as it should be?

First off, younger professionals are by definition more focused on the future than their older colleagues. The young professional group on resilience has formed itself after the global shapers event in Boston. A community focused on city resilience now exists of around 250 Arcadians posting, commenting and asking questions frequently on the internal media of Arcadis, Yammer.

Added to that, younger professionals are generally more into digital developments, which can be useful in creating support for the approach we aim for and help integrate the involvement of resilient communities.

How important is it to consider resilient solutions in the day-to-day job? Other than Climate change and extreme weathers what other attributes are major drivers around Resilience? Which ones do you think are more challenging and needs to be discussed more?

Again a reference to the definition of resilience: A system’s and/or organization’s capacity to maintain, protect, develop and adapt its natural and built assets, dealing with chronic stresses and acute shocks, turning challenges into opportunities, improving the quality of life.

Resilience therefore encompasses a larger range of future stresses and shocks than climate change impacts and extreme weathers. Resilient solutions will therefore be very important in the day-to-day job, as almost every Arcadis project already has some resilience work included.

Arcadis has positioned itself as a thought leader in city resilience, in particular from the perspective of urban climate change adaptation, flood resilience and financing of resilience measures. As already mentioned before, resilience encompasses a wider definition than climate change adaptation and extreme weather. Other major drivers around resilience consist of stresses: “Long term underlying human or natural pressures, just as Economic instability and Social inequality, and shocks: Natural or human-made events that cause a disaster such as Earthquakes, Wildfires, Pandemics and Chemical spills, for example.

What are the key opportunities and advantages in creating resilient cities? Can you please explain that in the light of BART Tool for those who are not familiar with it?

The key advantages of creating a resilient city is that by the holistic approach of the entire city, initial investments in projects will be reduced due to co-benefits and different projects can enhance each other’s resilience. For example, a multi-functional flood defense with a park that can attract recreational visitors makes the area more attractive for businesses that focus on this target audience. By taking these benefits into account, multiple stakeholders and investors can be found to invest in flood defenses, critical infrastructure and the overall resilience of a city. By making this multifunctional flood-defense part of the green-blue infrastructure, flash floods caused by excessive rainfall events can be flattened due to the interceptive and storing capacity, further increasing resilience.

For those that do not know the BART-tool yet, a short description: The BART-tool, or Bankable Resilience Tool, is a mix of a multi-criteria analysis and a cost-benefit analysis. The tool gives insight in investments, expected profits, non-monetized values and the link between investments and profits for different stakeholders in a project. The BART-tool can therefore assist in decision making for different stakeholders and getting them involved in different projects by means of an Investment Opportunity Report (IOR)

How open are the public and private sectors in embracing each other for implementing resilient solutions through Partnerships especially in the EMU Region?

In order to achieve true resiliency, public, private, governmental and NGO’s should collaborate and adapt to a new way of thinking. The holistic way of thinking includes leaving the view of the bubble that these stakeholders can be in, focusing on merely their own interest.

This holistic viewpoint is the key for success. New York is a good example in which the public-private partnerships keep the multi-functional flood defenses and waterfronts up to date while increasing livability and the cost-effectiveness. Whereas grey infrastructure such as dikes are less attractive, improving these areas to green-blue infrastructure will reduce flood risks the same as grey infrastructure, but increase real-estate values and give public access to increase livability and attract other businesses.

By Global Shapers: Generation 2018, Sarah Demetriou, Valentina Paiva-Acosta and Sarah Walsh