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Emerging Technologies for Resilient Cities - Fostering Partnerships to Unlock Possibilities

Jacobs is a Platform Partner of 100 Resilient Cities, an initiative started by the Rockefeller Foundation that provides member cities with access to resilience-building tools and services supplied by a platform of partners from the private, public, academic and non-profit sectors. Jacobs has been fortunate to partner with Resilient Melbourne – one of the first cities to join this network – to deliver a series of three collaborative events on Emerging Technologies for Resilient Cities. Given that many cities around the world are increasingly facing novel challenges due to changing environmental and socio-economic pressures, the purpose of the series is to bring global lessons learned and local professionals together to explore how emerging technologies being used globally could be applied within a local city resilience context. 

In October, we launched the first of these events where the keynote was delivered by Michael Fiske, an advanced materials and manufacturing professional within Jacobs’ space exploration group. Mike presented on how NASA and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers are using large scale 3D printing (also known as additive construction) to explore planetary habitation on Mars and the rapid construction of barracks in remote environments using in-situ materials, respectively. Given Melbourne’s rise in homelessness and problems around access to affordable housing, the event posed an opportunity for Mike to explore how additive construction could theoretically be applied to solve existing problems on Earth. He discussed global trends and how countries around the world are beginning to shake up the traditional construction industry by rapidly producing built structures at very low costs – from offices in the Middle East, to disaster relief shelters in the U.S.

The theme that arose strongly from the panel discussion, which comprised specialists from policy, architecture and social enterprise backgrounds, was the strength of partnerships and what can be achieved when we bring together great minds from diverse backgrounds who are all driven by the same positive outcome. This was clear from senior project manager at Launch Housing, Vere Longmore, with his overview of Melbourne’s Harris Transportable Housing Project on the Ballarat Road (Footscray). Through a collaborative effort between Launch Housing, the Victorian State Government and philanthropic donors, the project aims to deliver 57 low cost houses to vulnerable populations. 

The theme of fostering partnerships across sectors to create positive outcomes was echoed in the context of Mike’s presentation. Although the panellists concluded that additive construction technology is a few years away from becoming viable in the Australian market for the purpose of low cost housing, the audience were actively engaged to better understand the potential barriers and how we might overcome them. As highlighted by Toby Kent, chief resilience officer at Resilient Melbourne, “We don’t often think about space exploration in relation to issues that are as immediate as homelessness. What stood out for me was the value in looking at our challenges from different perspectives, the sense of possibility and the sense of working together across sectors. The solutions to societal stresses are not necessarily outside of our grasp. To solve complex challenges, we need to have the will to achieve the exceptional, and openness to work in different ways, to unite strengths from across sectors and disciplines. It’s just a question of grasping the opportunity.”

It’s often easy to get caught up with business as usual and this restricts the ability to connect across sectors and look beyond the problems posed by our specific professions, and traditional solutions to those problems. We need to create more environments where we can open our minds – where it is acceptable to not have the answer, to ask questions and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Doing so is the only way to truly benefit from the learnings of others, and collectively unlock possibilities that we couldn’t have imagined alone.

The third final instalment of the series in November will feature Stephen Rutherford, Jacobs’ Global Solutions Director for transport planning. Stephen will explore how big data analytics can create a ‘fair’ transport system to support Melbourne’s growth and the opportunity for positive disruption. 

Jacobs would like to thank Resilient Melbourne for the opportunity to collaborate on this series and contribute to conversations that matter.

As Marketing Manager for Partnerships in Asia Pacific and the Middle East for Jacobs, Rachael Millar is responsible for establishing strategic relationships with key industry bodies across the region.

Panel from the first of Emerging Technologies for Resilient Cities events. L-R: Huai Lim, Leanne Mitchell, Vere Longmore, Michael Fiske, and Alison Whitten. Image supplied by Andrew Harris.


Image of B-Hut fabricated using USACE technology used with permission of USACE.
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