NEW YORK – Craig Schwitter, P.E., principal at international engineering firm Buro Happold, spoke at the UN General Assembly on Friday, October 4, as part of World Habitat Day. Schwitter’s presentation focused on ways to strengthen the urban fabric of New York and other cities to make them more resilient in the face of increasing natural threats. “Our cities are the best asset we have,” explained Schwitter, “and we have to learn how to protect them and make them more resilient. The good news is that we already have the tools to do this — and these tools are game changers for cities worldwide.”—

One of these tools is the Living City Model, a comprehensive approach to building stronger, more resilient cities. Developed by Buro Happold’s strategic management company, Happold Consulting, the Living City Model integrates best practices in planning, design, technology, and infrastructure to create social, environmental, and economic success. It can be adapted to diverse conditions of urban development across the globe.

Buro Happold has applied the Living City Model to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewal Energy (KACARE); the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD); and the plan for the 2012 London Olympics.

Schwitter demonstrated that even small-scale improvements can have a big impact. “Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for my home city of New York. There was an enormous amount of destruction. On the up side, New York had already started to implement some very good municipal policies over the past decade that prevented even more widespread damage,” continued Schwitter.

Happold Consulting has documented these case studies in Sandy Success Stories, a comprehensive report issued in June 2013 of behalf of local civic organizations (available at www.sandysuccessstories.org). The report documents the implementation of practical, inexpensive strategies across the region that actually lessened the impact of the storm.

World Habitat Day is an annual event that takes place during the first week in October. The day-long discussion included members of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization, the Center for Resilient Design at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the New York Chapter of the American Institute Architects (AIA).