Designing Safer Urban Spaces (DESURBS)

Description and Timescale: The DESURBS project (designing safer urban spaces) is a Framework 7 security grant from the European Union which began in early 2011 and will run through to the end of 2015.

Project Summary: Though hazard preparedness and response measures can evolve quickly in reaction to specific incidents, the urban landscape itself is largely fixed on time scales ranging from several years to several decades, and even longer in some instances. This usually means that preparedness and resilience plans for a city assume that the urban space where hazards and threats are played out is fundamentally a constant entity, while the organization, management and preparedness are variables that can be improved upon to increase safety and security for an area’s inhabitants. But slowly over time the urban spaces making up a city will be modified and upgraded for a multitude of reasons. This happens as public infrastructure decays and becomes obsolete, as socioeconomic and technological developments force changes in use patterns that dictate changes in important urban gathering places, and as a result of private development.

When such changes to urban spaces do occur, this can be an opportunity to strengthen security weaknesses with a better, safer more resilient new space. Urban renewal, however, is constrained by the large cost associated with significantly changing the urban fabric, and so the process is often incremental and fragmented, depending on local priorities and availability of external financing. The redesign of urban spaces with the concurrent goal of making them more secure can also be constrained by local knowledge and experience with different types of hazards and security threats. A more unified and comprehensive treatment of the security of urban spaces themselves would allow for a common, international base of knowledge which could then be built upon over time as new events and incidents arise.

Our main objective in this project is to create a decision support portal to tackle this problem. The portal will consist of a continuously evolving urban space security event database, an Integrated Security and Resilience (ISR) task plan formulation framework for engaging and assisting local stakeholders in the decision support process; and comprehensive supporting models and tools to improve the design of new and renewed urban areas. This will increase their security against – and resilience to – new threats. Improved design will make people safer, protect surrounding natural environments and make the urban space itself less vulnerable to damage. This will be developed and evaluated using a series of case-studies in Jerusalem, Barcelona and Nottingham, with possible alternative policies developed through detailed architectural and industrial solutions. Relevant guidelines will also be developed for decision-making actions at the governmental and municipal levels.

For more information see the DESURBS website here

 Lead Partners: Research Management (Norway); Loughborough University (UK); The University of Warwick (UK); The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel); Technical University of Crete (Greece);  Centre internacional de metodes numerics en enginyeria – CIMNE – (Spain) University of Southampton – IT Innovation (UK); Bezalel academy of arts and design (Israel)

Supporting Partners: Various user groups and built environment professionals in the three case study areas – Nottingham (UK); Jerusalem (Israel); and Barcelona (Spain).

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