Building resilient cities with new International Standard

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A smart city is a resilient city, able to handle all the challenges of a changing world while keeping essential functions running. But how can a city know its level of resilience? A new International Standard has just been published to help.

With a rapidly rising world population and growing urbanization, cities that want to survive need to adapt and prepare to ensure they are sustainable. Resilience is an important element as it means they can react most appropriately should unexpected events or stresses occur. But in order to build resilience, cities need to understand their risks, vulnerabilities and strengths so as to make informed decisions and measure the effects of actions taken.

Just published, ISO 37123, Sustainable cities and communities – Indicators for resilient cities, is the first International Standard that provides a set of indicators on resilience by which cities can measure where they stand. It complements other standards in the series on smart cities indicators that includes ISO  37120, Sustainable cities and communities – Indicators for city services and quality of life, and ISO 37122, Sustainable cities and communities – Indicators for smart cities.

Bernard Gindroz, Chair of the ISO technical committee responsible for the series, said climate change impacts, security risks and the effects of increasing populations means cities need to be as robust as possible.

“Cities are increasingly faced with unexpected shocks and stresses, ranging from adverse weather events to cyber-attacks and political conflicts,” he said.

“They can prepare themselves by fully understanding the risks they face and take action to reduce their vulnerability to such risks. ISO 37123 will help them to do that with a set of internationally comparable criteria that can be used to identify areas of weakness in cities around the world.”

High angle view of subway trains in motion in Chicago, USA.

Resilience in cities is often only discussed in highly general and qualitative terms, rather than with globally comparable data, adds Patricia McCarney, Convenor of the committee’s working group that developed the standard.

“Yet quantitative data is needed to understand all aspects of a resilient city, including its level of preparedness for an extreme event, as well as its ability to respond and rebuild should one occur. This standard, along with the indicators within ISO 37120 and ISO 37122, will equip cities with the measurements that are necessary to create innovative responses to such challenges.”

ISO 37123 was developed with the involvement of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to ensure that it aligns with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a voluntary agreement by UN member states to work towards reducing disaster risk. It also contributes to the UNDRR’s global “Making Cities Resilient” campaign.

ISO 37123 complements the management system standard ISO 37101, Sustainable development in communities – Management system for sustainable development – Requirements with guidance for use, by providing indicators that help cities measure their progress in implementing the requirements it contains.

ISO 37123 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 268, Sustainable cities and communities, the secretariat of which is held by AFNOR, ISO’s member for France. It is available from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.

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