DESURBS Context and Main Objectives

Security risks to urban areas are widespread. From crime and public order to terrorism, “securitising” cities has been a focus of policy responses. This has occurred alongside ongoing natural threats such as earthquakes and flooding, which include in many cases increasingly human induced risk – and the ever present risk of accidents in evermore crowded urban areas. As security-related risk in cities has intensified our concern with anticipating, preventing, preparing, responding and recovering from the associated disruptive challenges has become a key concern of urban managers and built environment stakeholders such as urban planners, urban designers, civil engineers and architects. Through it all enhancing resilience – the capacity to adjust to threats and mitigate or avoid harm – has become the aim for urban stakeholders. Shaping new and existing urban spaces through planning, design and management is central to this. Resilient design is therefore a holistic process involving a range of activities which shape and manage the built fabric so as to reduce its vulnerability to a range of hazards and threats. It is concerned with both the spatial form and redesign of the built environment as well as the processes that help shape it. Yet designing and redesigning urban spaces to make them more secure is often constrained by the limited local knowledge and experience of dealing with these different types of hazard and security threats. There is thus a continuing need for widely relevant, generically applicable tools to help diverse users identify strengths and weaknesses in urban spaces and take the most appropriate steps to identify, mitigate against or eliminate the risks to them through enhancing resilience.

Our objective in DESURBS has been to produce relevant, exploitable and high impact tools and methodologies. More specifically, to establish a comprehensive urban space security events database containing a representative number of incidents or ‘near miss’ incidents resulting from security threats in urban areas including incidents involving auxiliary infrastructures supporting the urban space; protection of human lives and the surrounding natural environment; old and new cities as well as different security cultures; public transport terminals, sport venues, shopping and business centres. Additionally, to create an Integrated Security and Resilience (ISR) design framework that is based on engaging local stakeholders and that is charged with finding weak points and consequently strengthening urban space designs, and to develop and incorporate an objective rating scale for quantifying safety of different urban space designs and use it to show that ISR design recommendations result in urban spaces less prone for and less affected by security threats.

Furthermore, we have aimed to develop Geographical Information System (GIS)-based mapping and visualization tools based on urban design case studies; to develop comprehensive supporting models, technologies and tools for quantifying vulnerabilities and strengthening weaknesses, including: new (industrial design) security products for urban spaces; urban simulation modeling, probability estimation, optimal location modeling; tracking technologies; urban space materials database/advanced computational (finite element) methods for characterizing and reducing the vulnerability of ‘weak’ points; and finally, to develop and implement a Decision Support Portal integrating, where feasible, the ISR framework, the incidents database the comprehensive supporting models, technologies and tools.