DESURBS – Designing Safer Urban Spaces – is a multi-disciplinary research project, funded through the European Union’s FP7 Research Programme. It is developing a series of tools, accessible through an interactive portal, which will assist urban stakeholders to plan, design, manage and maintain safer urban spaces.

Security risks to urban areas are widespread. From crime and public order to terrorism, “securitising” cities has been a focus of policy responses. This has occurred alongside ongoing natural threats such as earthquakes and flooding, which include in many cases increasingly human induced risk – and the ever present risk of accidents in evermore crowded urban areas.

As security-related risk in cities has intensified our concern with anticipating, preventing, preparing, responding and recovering from the associated disruptive challenges has become a key concern of urban managers and built environment stakeholders such as urban planners, urban designers, civil engineers and architects.

Through it all enhancing resilience – the capacity to adjust to threats and mitigate or avoid harm and has physical, economic and social components – has become is the aim for urban stakeholders. Shaping new and existing urban spaces through planning, design and management is central to this.

Resilient design is therefore a holistic activity involving a range of activities which shape and manage the built fabric so as to reduce its vulnerability to a range of hazards and threats. It is concerned with both the spatial form and redesign of the built environment as well as the processes that help shape it.

Yet designing and redesigning urban spaces to make them more secure is often constrained by the limited local knowledge and experience of dealing with these different types of hazard and security threat. Sharing, analysing and understanding past experiences of how these risks have impacted on urban spaces is therefore critical. This is the approach of the DESURBS project.

DESURBS is a research-based project which is developing tools which assist built environment professionals and urban managers to create and maintain safer urban spaces. Through a series of integrated work packages and based on knowledge from past incidents, DESURBS is developing an online, interactive decision support tool to help users identify strength and weaknesses in urban spaces and take the most appropriate steps to identify, mitigate against or eliminate the risks to them through enhancing resilience.


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