I) RAMSES in a nutshell

The RAMSES project aims to develop methods and tools to quantify the expected damages due to climate change and costs of specific adaptation measures using a systems-based risk approach on a regional scale. This will allow decision makers to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation measures in cities and to consider trade-offs and inter-linkages with social and environmental issues.
In order to achieve this, urban characteristics and their inter-linkages will be identified and used to provide the local context for the assessment. In an integrated top-down and bottom-up approach risks vulnerabilities and damages from climate change will be quantified. Associated costs and benefits of adaptation are then estimated to support the design of sustainable transition strategies in urban areas.
RAMSES started on 1 October 2012 and will run until 30 September 2017

II) RAMSES results after one year

After one year of research, the RAMSES project has provided the first results:

  • Identification of resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators;
  • Typologies of buildings and infrastructure in terms of climate change impacts;
  • Urban climate models (Enviro-Hirlam, Envi-Met and UrbClim) successfully run for Bilbao to compare performance;
  • Initial assessment of climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies for the case study cities of London, Bogota and Rio de Janeiro;
  • Implementation of a stakeholder dialogue in Brussels in October 2013 on resilient architecture and infrastructure 1st RAMSES Stakeholder Dialogue – “Co-creating the climate resilient city: embedding adaptation into city processes and strategies”.


RAMSES Project 1st Webinar – 12 November 2013 - 15.00-16.45 CET

The RAMSES Project 1st Webinar “Co-creating the climate resilient city: embedding adaptation into city processes and strategies” taking place on the 12 November 2013, will present the 1st Stakeholder Dialogue themes to a broader audience and build upon the SD results gained through the interaction with participants. Participants will get the chance to get insights into the following topics:

Are we building resilient cities day by day? Prof. Annemie Wyckmans, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, will share cutting-edge expertise on making architecture and infrastructure more resilient.

How can we plan for adaptation if we don’t know what it will cost us? Dr. Graham Floater, from the London School of Economics/Seneca will share innovative insights into developing cost-assessments for adaptation.

Measures are necessary to advancing adaptation on the ground, but do cities know what their vision for a transition to resilience is? Efrén Feliu from TECNALIA will present on transition patterns towards sustainability.

Spaces are limited – please register now for the event by clicking here. The event is free of charge!
In case you have questions, please contact alberto.terenzi@iclei.org

Technical requirements to join the webinar
Please note that, in order to join the webinar, you will need appropriate players. Please check whether you have the required players installed on your computer by visiting https://iclei-events.webex.com/iclei-events/onstage/systemdiagnosis.php

1st RAMSES Stakeholder Dialogue – “Co-creating the climate resilient city: embedding adaptation into city processes and strategies”

On 11 October 2013, over 30 stakeholders from different cities, associations, European institutions and research centres gathered for the “Co-creating the climate resilient city: embedding adaptation into city processes and strategies” stakeholder dialogue in Brussels.  The main purpose of this dialogue was for researchers and stakeholders to exchange insights into climate adaptation and get valuable feedback to advance their work on the topic.

During the morning Annemie Wyckmans from the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU) and Gaell Mainguy from the Institute Veolia Environment (IVE) presented on resilience indicators with a special reference to architecture and infrastructure. Her presentation included hands-on examples on possible infrastructural responses to flooding and heat stress. Participants took then part in an interactive exercise during which they had to think about possible indicators for, give a definition of and evaluate different approaches to foster resilience.

In order to support politicians in their decision-making when planning for adaptation measures, Graham Floater (London School of Economics/Seneca) presented on practical cost-assessment frameworks for adaptation. He also introduced the potential and challenges of economics for influencing political decision-making and public spending and presented a simplified methodology for assessing adaptation costs. After this brief introduction participants were invited to provide an estimation of costs and likelihood of different impacts deriving from extreme weather events during a group exercise. Participants found this activity particularly difficult, suggesting that the research outcomes that will be produced on the topic are set to be highly relevant.
Urban development towards resilience not only necessitates indicators and cost-assessments, but also requires the understanding of the potential of urban strategies to facilitating this transition. Efrén Feliu (Tecnalia) presented on transition strategies acting as drivers towards sustainability in cities. During an interactive three-step exercise, participants were confronted with structuring an urban sustainability transition and choosing relevant factors to trigger the realisation of a desired vision in their city.

Participants were excited to learn more about the cutting-edge research projects and interim results and to have the opportunity to link them to their adaptation work on the ground. Researchers on the other hand gathered valuable input from participants, providing them with a sound reality-check that can support them carrying their research further.

IV) RAMSES Research

Architecture and the resilient city

Climate change will exert a large influence on the built environment and its future development. Not only will sea-level rise, droughts, wind, floods and related events challenge the robustness of the built environment, its institutions and inhabitants, but there will also be limited resources with which to repair, maintain and construct the built environment in the future.  Thus the questions of climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainability converge very much into the design and management of the built environment, where the interplay between architecture and infrastructure will determine our success or failure. We need integrated, cross-scale indicators of resilience for the built environment, so that we can harvest the synergies between architecture, infrastructure and urban planning. To avoid sub-optimization, holistic and integrated urban design and management are imperative.
Redundancy, diversity and connectivity are core characteristics of resilience. Dealing with design and transformation of the built environment architecture plays a major role in supporting and enhancing the resilience of a city, connecting various scales from material detailing to building design, accessibility of green and public spaces and functionality of urban morphology. Architectural design can enhance accessibility, usability and functionality of urban environments in an almost unnoticeable manner, but malfunctioning is quickly perceived and can form a considerably hindrance to ordinary activities in citizens’ daily lives. Vulnerability risks and costs can be considerably reduced when designing the architectural environment with inherent flexibility for adaptation to climate change, prioritising passive and local solutions, and providing redundancy of solutions (diversified supply). Opportunities for intervention can be identified and prioritised according to their ability to provide low-regret options which create benefits regardless of potential catastrophic events, such as accessible leisure parks and water bodies, synergies with mitigation measures, avoiding of lock-in effects, and high quality – investment cost balance. Investment costs can be reduced further if upgrading of existing and addition of new and more resilient urban fabric occurs as part of larger urban regeneration and development programmes, fully integrated in long-term urban policy.
Review of scientific literature, standards, design guidelines and assessment schemes, along with testing of the review results in stakeholder and expert workshops, show that few operational indicators and assessment frameworks for urban climate resilience exist. The few existing frameworks focus mainly on risk and vulnerability, little on identification of opportunities for intervention, design and synergies with other urban policy areas.
Considering the many different approaches to defining resilience, and the just emerging research in measuring it, few, if any cities have developed successful plans to identify opportunities for interventions to increase urban resilience, implement and monitor the measures and their interconnectedness with long-term generic city policy.
The next step for the RAMSES project is therefore to cooperate with RAMSES case cities to further develop a range of indicators for resilient architecture and infrastructure that can be implemented at building, neighbourhood and catchment scale in cities, by city authorities. While they may not yet have a fully developed and implemented resiliency plan, most cities already cover several aspects of reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience without explicitly calling it that (distribution and reliability of urban facilities, blue-green infrastructures, accessibility of public spaces, etc.). WP2 will analyse RAMSES cities’ policy documents and identify relevant opportunities for intervention and upgrading of urban architecture and infrastructure, which are further discussed and developed in workshops with the cities’ experts and relevant stakeholders. Such discussions among policy makers and researchers regarding definitions, scope, goals and policy for resilient urban architecture and infrastructure will be extremely informative for all involved. Of course a few indicators will not automatically make a city more resilient. In order to develop, implement and monitor the indicators over time, the taxonomy will therefore have to be

  • robust so it does not depend solely on consultancy or research, but supports municipal capacity over time;
  • comprehensive and integrative, including all municipal responsibilities and areas of influence;
  • adaptable to spatiotemporal scales, and to availability of data and tools;
  • including requirements for modelling and monitoring with feedback loops;
  • selecting key indicators that can be integrated in every level of decision-making from high-range policy documents to checklists for project development (adapted to every-day decision-making in municipalities, not a long-term research project)
  • ideally also showing the added value of the implemented measures (adaptation + health, attractiveness, usability, economy, etc.)

For further information please have a look at the report “Synthesis review on resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators”, which can be downloaded form the RAMSES website soon.

Review on resilient infrastructure indicators

The ability to assess the resilience of infrastructure critically depends on key methodological choices (such as resilience definition, whether soft infrastructure is included or not, the perimeter, sectors and time horizon considered, the purpose of the evaluation etc.) and there is no one-size-fits-all framework. From an operational point of view, asset owners, local authorities, regulators and insurers need methods to assess the persistence and adaptability of the infrastructure. In practical terms, resilient infrastructures should be well designed and well managed. In other words, resilience of infrastructure is the result of:

  • good design to ensure that the system has the necessary resistance, reliability and redundancy  and,
  • good organization to provide the ability, capacity and capability to respond and recover from disruptive events.

Best practice guidelines are increasingly perceived as efficient tools to encourage and promote resilience and deliver a level of reassurance not otherwise available through specific indicators: Many design and engineering norms and standards already contribute to ensuring resistance and reliability of infrastructure and enhance its ability to withstand natural hazards. Risk management and Business Continuity Management standards are generic and comprehensive approaches which provide frameworks, guidelines and process-based indicators to continually update and improve the abilities of an organization to overcome a disruptive event.
Several dynamic fields of investigation are likely to influence conception and methods of infrastructure resilience assessment in the near future, including (i) modeling of infrastructure dependency to account better for the complexity of the systems and ensure that vulnerabilities in one sector do not compromise others; (ii) ecosystem-based climate change adaptation which cost-efficiency is becoming increasingly recognized; evaluation of the efficiency of indicators and cost-benefit assessments methods.

For further information please have a look at the report “Synthesis review on resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators”, which can be downloaded form the RAMSES website soon.

Typology for buildings and infrastructure to support climate change cost assessments

The central elements of cities are their buildings and their infrastructure systems. The quantification of impacts and costs on the city scale and the identification of suitable adaptation options therefore need to be designed in a way to be suitable for both.
Due to their complexity, cities can hardly be assessed in a detailed and at the same time in a transferable manner. We therefore develop general and reduced typologies of buildings and infrastructure based on their characteristics making them prone to impacts. In other words, typologies are here regarded as simplified units to assess impacts (including monetary damages). The main assumption is that buildings belonging to the same category or type behave similarly in regard to losses when exposed to a given climatic stimulus. Such information can then feed into costs assessments of an intermediate level of complexity.
This work is based on an extensive literature review regarding major climatic impacts for cities, e.g. flooding, storms and temperature-related impacts. For various impacts, existing typologies could be identified, however often with limited potential in terms of application or transferability. Thus, we propose new and simplified typologies for buildings and infrastructure based on different climatic stimuli. The identified classification schemes suggest a European (worldwide) applicability of generalised damage and impact functions as the basis for the development of adaptation measures.

For further information please have a look at the report “Physical and cost typology for buildings and infrastructure/project database”, which can be downloaded form the RAMSES website soon.

Urban climate models (Enviro-Hirlam, Envi-Met and UrbClim)

The RAMSES partners VITO and TECNALIA conduct simulations of urban climate using advanced computer models. During the first project year, the focus was on demonstrating the suitability of the models to reproduce observed urban climate features.
To do so, VITO performed simulations with its UrbClim model. This model covers an entire agglomeration at an  intermediate level of detail; a result is shown in Figure 1. Simulations have been done, so far, for Antwerp, Bilbao, and London. In these simulations, we have mainly investigated the capacity of the model to correctly simulate observed temperature differences between the city and the surrounding rural areas, as this quantity is a measure for the urban heat island phenomenon. It was found that, for the three cities mentioned above, errors on the urban-rural temperature difference were of the order of 1°C, and serial correlations in the range 0.6-0.7 indicated a good performance of the model in the simulation of the phase and amplitude of the urban heat island intensity peaks.

Figure 1. Simulated 2-m air temperature in and near Antwerp for the period May-September 2012. This image gives the average temperature; during the night and under favourable conditions the urban-rural temperature differences may rise to 6-7°C and more.

At the same time, TECNALIA conducted simulations with the ENVI-Met microscale model, which is complementary to UrbClim. Indeed, while ENVI-Met (because of computational constraints) cannot consider as long periods or large domains as UrbClim, it simulates urban climate features at a much finer spatial scale, down to the level of individual buildings and trees. Because of that, it is particularly well suited as a tool for investigating the impact of local urban design measures on thermal comfort. ENVI-Met simulation results were also found to favourably compare to measured urban climate variables. Figure 2 shows an example of a typical ENVI-Met result.

Figure 2. Spatial distribution of a thermal comfort index for the Indautxu quarter in Bilbao.

In addition, TECNALIA and VITO are collaborating in an intercomparison exercise, in which agglomeration-scale simulations with the Enviro-HIRLAM model over Bilbao are being compared with results obtained on the same domain with UrbClim. Enviro-HIRLAM is a coupled numerical weather prediction - atmospheric chemical transport modelling system, which contains an advanced representation of the urban surface energy balance. For this model, the root-mean-square errors (RMSE) are less than 2 ºC and the correlation coefficients show a mean value of 0.75 for the temperature in the urban and hinterland stations. The intercomparison will allow to gain further insight into model uncertainty.
In the coming year(s), the focus will shift towards the simulation of future urban climate, in particular considering the effect of changing weather patterns (under global climate change) on local urban climate features. More importantly, the urban climate models used in RAMSES will be used to simulate the impact of urban planning measures, which are going to be defined in other work packages, in collaboration with local stakeholders.
For further information please have a look at the report “Report on validation of agglomeration-scale climate simulations”, which will be published at the RAMSES website at the end of the year.

V) RAMSES stakeholder involvement

RAMSES aims to create a structured exchange between cities, being the main focus of the RAMSES research and RAMSES research community. This task foresees a bidirectional approach between cities and the project research, each informing the other in different moments. At first, cities’ needs and requirements should inform the RAMSES research; secondly, the research results shall be communicated back to cities to support their medium and long-term planning.

VI) RAMSES Stakeholder Survey Report

The Stakeholder Survey Report identifies key needs of RAMSES cities and additional European cities advancing adaptation action. Cities were directly contacted through phone interviews so as to get hands-on insights into the structure of their adaptation work and their state of advancement in the field. Also, cities got the chance to voice barriers encountered when setting up an adaptation process and their support needs with regard to adaptation. The findings of the report will prove particularly relevant for the RAMSES project researchers in order to shape their work according to practitioners’ needs and to understand what kind of support is mostly required. The report inquires specifically into the state of advancement in using adaptation cost-assessment tools in cities, thus gathering information on the development of one of the main outcomes of the RAMSES project, i.e. assessing adaptation costs.

Communication and awareness on adaptation are also addressed by the report, so as to understand what kind of media or formats cities would deem most useful to receive on adaptation by the RAMSES Project.




Europe The work leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. 308497
Project RAMSES - Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for Cities.