Unique Approaches to Disaster Recovery

Aug 25 2014

Disaster recovery is a complex matter. Putting a city back together again after a serious disaster involves a lot of different agencies, a coordinated approach, and a lot of money. Infrastructure that has been damaged or destroyed can seriously affect day to day life in a city–in small and large ways. Infrastructure is everything you see and don’t see around you in a city. The miles of underground pipes, gas and electric lines, fiber-optic communication cables, and, of course, all of the more prominent roads and buildings connecting and forming the urban environment and bringing a city to life. When these things are damaged, everything is affected and cities can all but shut down. Often the extent of the true damages to infrastructure after an earthquake or hurricane aren’t fully realized. This is why taking a unique approach to disaster recovery is so vital for a city. In this regard, many cities can use the example of Christchurch, New Zealand as a model in urban recovery.

Recovery Consortiums


In 2010 and 2011, a series of severe earthquakes devastated the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. Much of the city’s infrastructure–including water systems, underground utilities, roadways, and building structures–was severely damaged or destroyed. The critical difference for this New Zealand city, however, was the speed and efficiency with which they turned this devastation around and have rebuilt. By using a local consortium of local and national government agencies and numerous civil engineering firms, the city has been rebuilding infrastructure stronger and with greater resistance against another earthquake. Over 650 projects have been undertaken and are expected to be complete by 2016. These include massive infrastructure reconstruction projects that will better prepare the city to withstand future disasters. The dedicated consortium that was formed to accomplish this puts a framework in place to efficiently collaborate, respond, and rebuild after a disaster.

Co-op Rebuilding Model


The most unique part about the public-private consortium model is that it disrupted a typical approach to building infrastructure in New Zealand. Competing engineering companies typically bid on public sector client projects, but this process takes months and often includes delays and cost concerns. In the co-op model, the public owners of the infrastructure fund the work and staff from this consortium manage and coordinate projects. The private engineering firms lend teams to fulfill on projects, so all parties end up sharing information and risk in rebuilding essential infrastructure. All costs and fees are established in advanced, so contractors can’t reap runaway profits and delay work because of cost issues. When all parties are focused on the same outcome, efficiency, cost control, and simplicity in executing a project make for more effective disaster recovery for the entire community.

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