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Unit information: Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development in 2020/21

Unit name Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development
Unit code CENGM0071
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Liz Holcombe
Open unit status Not open

For this unit students will need to understand the concepts of civil engineering systems, engineering risk and at least one type of environmental hazard or system. For example, from the MEng Civil Engineering programme: CENG33900 Civil Engineering Systems 3 or equivalent and CENG33600 Water Engineering 3, or equivalent.



School/department Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


This unit will enable students to understand: (a) the interconnected challenges of natural hazards, disasters, risk, resilience, and sustainable development and (b) related stakeholder perspectives, policies, and practices. Students will learn about natural hazards (such as floods, landslides and earthquakes) and the risks they pose to infrastructure, communities, and societies around the world. The effects of engineering and development activities on the environment and society will be explored. Students will be equipped to develop disaster resilient and sustainable engineering strategies.

The content is based around three overlapping themes:

  1. Conceptual framework: Definitions and evolving concepts of hazards, risk, disasters, resilience, international development and sustainable development. The United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals. Perspectives and actions of policy makers, practitioners and communities. Systems thinking for understanding and managing risks to infrastructure, society, and the environment.
  2. Risk assessment and management practice: Selecting appropriate hazard and risk assessment and management approaches for different spatial scales, data and resource levels, and end-users. Case studies may include infrastructure lifecycle risk management, disaster risk insurance, national flood risk management, community-based landslide mitigation, and partnerships for urban resilience.
  3. Engineering for disaster resilient and sustainable development: Learning from case studies around the world such as: post-disaster response, shelter and reconstruction; safer buildings and construction; water, sanitation, hygiene and health; deforestation; and clean and accessible energy, for example.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course, the students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of the hazards and infrastructure resilience.

2. Explain the concepts of disaster risk in terms of: hazard events; exposure and vulnerability of

infrastructure, society, economy and the environment; and the disaster management risk cycle.

3. Explain the complexity of development in developing countries.

4. Analyse the global issues of food, health, infrastructure, inequality, disaster etc. and their interaction

with development.

5. Assess how infrastructure is vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards.

6. Carry out qualitative and quantitative risk analysis and identify measures to improve infrastructure resilience.

7. Discuss the suitability of different hazard and risk assessment methods for different situations.

8. Critically evaluate the perspectives, actions and interactions of disaster risk reduction stakeholders.

9. Propose appropriate strategies for different scenarios of disaster risk response, recovery, reconstruction, mitigation or preparedness.

10. Identify appropriate engineering solutions to problems, whilst also considering the social, financial, political and environmental implications.

11. Critically evaluate the impact that engineering has had and can have on the lives of people in developing countries.

12. Propose the directions that will achieve the greatest impact in terms of development, in particular, suggesting a role for the engineer which will best employ their skills-set.

Teaching details

Each week the teaching will comprise:

(a) 1 or 2 hours of tasks for students to complete in their own time, such as watching pre-recorded lectures, case studies or online videos; reading notes and papers and writing a short summary; or completing a quiz.

(b) a timetabled ‘live’ class for a seminar or discussion on that week’s topic, potentially with one of the case-study presenters.

(c) optional open office times with one of the unit’s teaching team (these may be bookable or drop-in sessions, and for individuals or groups of students).

Assessment Details

Single coursework submission – 100% (6 pages maximum, using a template with set margins, font size etc)

Reading and References

Blockley, D. I. and Godfrey, P. S. (2017) Doing it differently: systems for rethinking infrastructure. 2nd edn.

London: ICE Publishing (multiple copies available at UoB Queen’s Building Library)

da Silva, J. (2017) Shifting agendas: From Response to Resilience. The role of engineering in disaster risk reduction. The Institution of Civil Engineers 9th Brunel International Lecture Series pp44.

Parkinson, S. (2013). Finding a way in International Development: options for ethical and effective work.

Kumarian Press. ISBN: 978-1-56549-567-8 (copy available at UoB Queen’s Building Library)

UNISDR (2016). Implementing the Sendai Framework to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction. Available online at: (last accessed 23/06/20)