Disaster risk reduction is child’s play

Recent disasters all around the world have highlighted the importance of incorporating disaster risk reduction (DRR) considerations into design, construction and operation of the built environment; however many built environment professionals (e.g. architects, civil engineers, planners) have not received the training required for dealing with DRR. We thus decided to incorporate DRR into the UG programmes delivered at the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, and with the support from the Teaching Innovation Award, we introduced a ‘Disaster Risk Reduction is Child’s Play’ project, aimed to create a range of interactive models using LEGO and other modular toys that demonstrate a range of important resilient DRR features that are uniquely designed to cope with floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other hazards and threats, and encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration among future built environment professionals.

Throughout the academic year we ran a series of workshops introducing students to disaster risk reduction, with a hands-on session during which the students tested seismic performance of different structures using K’Nex; discussing urbanisation and its role in creating vulnerabilities that turn natural hazards into disasters, with a hands-on session during which students were asked to plan a city using an outlined base map of a city and 3D printed cubes that represented various city elements and densities; and creating ideas for a small post-disaster shelter using the LEGO Designer software.

Once students felt comfortable with the ideas behind disaster risk reduction, a competition was launched. Two student teams worked to build disaster resilient models that were then presented at an evening event and were local practitioners and members of academic and CAP staff.

Whilst the main aim of the competition was to consider disaster risk reduction measures, it also encouraged students from different programmes (architecture and civil engineering) to work together and to realise that in order to build resilience, collaboration is the key.Author: Ksenia Chmutina