2nd RAMSES Newsletter

Table of Contents

Welcome to the second RAMSES Newsletter!

The RAMSES eNewsletter will inform you about results and events of the EU research project RAMSES. The aim is to keep all relevant actors in the field of climate change adaptation up to date with regard to much needed quantification of the impact of climate change on cities and criteria to prioritise adaptation options.

I)   RAMSES News

  • European Climate Adaptation Conference 2015 – ECCA 2015 – Invitation to submit proposals for Sessions and Workshops

II)  RAMSES Research

  • Review of climate change losses and adaptation costs for case study cities
  • Key performance indicators and corresponding design principles for climate-resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban environments
  • Analytical framework of the decision-making process on adaptation

III) RAMSES Deliverables available online

IV) RAMSES in a nutshell



I) RAMSES news

European Climate Adaptation Conference 2015 - ECCA 2015
12 - 14 May 2015 Copenhagen, Denmark

Invitation to submit proposals for Sessions and Workshops


The three major European climate adaptation research projects RAMSES, BASE and TopDad are organising the ECCA Conference 2015. The aim of the conference and its activities is to share new research results, novel policy developments, and practical implementation experiences regarding climate change impacts and adaptation, as well as highlighting opportunities for business innovations aimed at supporting the transition to low-carbon societies.

ECCA invites you to submit proposals for Sessions or Workshops & Other activities by 15 October 2014 here.


II) RAMSES research

Review of climate change losses and adaptation costs for case study cities

Key infrastructure, buildings, assets and sectors of national economies are concentrated in cities, with associated social and financial risks from flooding, heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these risks and lead to higher damage costs in the future. As a result, there is a growing recognition that investment in adaptation measures, specifically tailored to urban areas, is needed to strengthen the resilience of cities. However, a key challenge faced by policy makers is the lack of robust evidence on the economic costs and benefits of urban climate adaptation.

As a first step in developing a cost assessment framework, a review was undertaken on historical climate change losses and adaptation costs in cities, particularly in the RAMSES case study cities: London, Antwerp, Bilbao, Bogota, Hyderabad, Rio de Janeiro and New York. An extensive literature review was combined with interviews with city officials. The results suggest that flooding has generally been responsible for the highest historical damage costs in these cities, followed by strong winds. Heatwaves and drought have had much lower measured costs.

The review also found that the evidence for historical costs of extreme events in cities is highly incomplete and based on different methods that are not comparable. One of the reasons for this is the deficit in urban metrics. Unlike national governments, there is no standard accounting methodology at the municipal level for indicators such as wealth, economic growth, carbon emissions and employment. At the same time, little research has been undertaken on forecasting the costs of adaptation measures (one exception is New York City’s adaptation plan following Hurricane Sandy). These results suggest that standardised and transferable tools for cost assessments cannot be developed solely through extrapolation from bottom-up historical data. It will also require top-down methods using intermediate levels of complexity.


Key performance indicators and corresponding design principles for climate-resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban environments

How can key performance indicators and corresponding design principles for climate-resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban environments be used to reduce uncertainty and increase effect of cities’ investments in climate-resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban environments? What are the no- and low-regret options that can alleviate urban decision making in light of the uncertainty of future climate change impacts?

A set of two reports aims to contribute to these challenges. The report “Resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban environments” summarises empirical evidence on measures and indicators of resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban design, gathered from the RAMSES case cities as well as science- and experience-based literature. The report “Taxonomy of Cross-Scale Indicators for Resilient Architecture, Infrastructure and Urban Environments” brings forward empirical evidence of how to define the best possible indicators to set goals, identify most effective ways to increase climate change resilience of architecture, infrastructure and urban environments, and monitor corresponding progress made over time. It includes quantitative, outcome-based indicators – useful for benchmarking and comparison – as well as qualitative, process-based indicators for monitoring progress and managing performance of individual structures (cities, infrastructure, business). 

There is a considerable gap between the maturity and complexity of the resilience and adaptation concepts in the academic literature and the actual use of these concepts in practice. The detailed and advanced resilience frameworks found in the literature featuring indicators are not really used in practice. Reciprocally, resilience and adaptation operational frameworks are essentially self-assessment tools designed to increase the adaptive capacity of the city or business services (such as the ones from UNISDR, ICLEI, UK cabinet, World Bank and business continuity standards). These tools consist mainly in checklists and guiding principles. They can hardly be used to directly guide investment as envisioned within the RAMSES project.

To address this challenge, we analysed the current practices from end-user perspectives, namely municipalities and investment bodies, to see where and how resilience principles and quantitative frameworks could be best introduced in a practical way.

The first report “Resilient architecture, infrastructure and urban environments” (RAMSES – D2.3, to be available soon on the RAMSES website) hence consists of three main parts. A first part deals with empirical evidence on the contribution of diverse architecture, infrastructure and urban planning measures to climate change mitigation and adaptation, from third party research and documentation on case study cities around the globe. The second part addresses the state of the applied art in RAMSES case cities using document analysis (all RAMSES cities), meetings with the municipality (Bilbao, Antwerp), and comparison and analysis of results from the RAMSES case study cities. Finally, the findings from the RAMSES case cities are discussed against the generic empirical evidence, and next steps are suggested towards a taxonomy of indicators and design guidelines.

For each city, we performed a systematic analysis of relevant municipal policy documents combined with interviews with key municipality representatives. Architecture and infrastructure related indicators were extracted from the case cities’ policy documents on climate change adaptation, and in municipal planning documents related to architecture and infrastructure. For each document it was evaluated whether:

  • Resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators are mentioned and taken into account in executive summary, introduction or conclusion (a sign of its significance);

  • Resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators are mentioned and taken into account in goals and strategies described in the document (a sign of operationalization);

  • Specific impacts and urban areas are described in detail, and whether the methodology for assessing and monitoring resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators is clear;

  • Cost assessment of vulnerability and potential measures has been performed, and efforts toward a more resilient city have an impact on insurance cost structure;

  • The proposed measures are legally binding;

  • Resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators are integrated in checklists for project development used by city officials (urban, neighbourhood and building scale).

The selection of key municipal documents and the relevance of the results were checked and discussed with city officials. 

The second report “Taxonomy of Cross-Scale Indicators for Resilient Architecture, Infrastructure and Urban Environments” (RAMSES – D2.4, to be available soon on the RAMSES website) contains a taxonomy of measures to increase resilience of architecture, infrastructure and urban design. For each measure a range of characteristics is specified: Type of infrastructure; Scale of implementation; Threat(s) addressed; Expected outcomes; Performance Indicators; Resilience dimensions; Scientific references; and Reference cities and projects. The taxonomy is based on empirical evidence gathered in the RAMSES case cities as well as scientific and experience-based references, as described and analysed in D2.3. As an introduction to the taxonomy, various entry points and pathways are specified for use by, amongst others, municipal planners, design teams, cost and impact assessment. In order to avoid sub-optimization and ensure that overall goals are met, the indicators and design measures must be interrelated in a way that makes it possible to transfer and aggregate information from building level, to neighbourhood, city, regional and national levels, and vice versa.

The intended outcome of the reports is to showcase and summarise a set of resilience-related KPIs and empirical evidence of the performance of corresponding design measures for architecture, infrastructure and urban environments.  This knowledge can be a catalyst for achieving long-term policy goals of increased urban resilience. Having specific, agreed upon goals and performance indicators is also important for development of new resilience services and products by and for insurance companies, industry and municipal stakeholders, as well as for shaping policy and legislation for resilient development of urban built environments.


Analytical framework of the decision-making process on adaptation

The report “Analytical framework of the decision making process on adaptation” suggests a broad framework to apprehend the decision making process on which political choices rely to respond to urban needs for adaptation. Using different approaches from practical adaptation, resilience and institutionalism, this analytical framework aims at underlining the need to consider the multiple actors and networks of governance and their behaviours and to privilege the participation of communities in defining the dimensions, drivers and barriers of adaptation policies.  On the one hand, the practical adaptation offers an approach to vulnerability that encompasses the full range of ecological and socio-economic factors which enhance or reduce it. On the other hand, the resilience approach allows the assessment of adaptation initiatives through a system-oriented strategy, making a system less prone to disturbances and better capable of dealing with surprises and uncertainties. In so doing, we do not explore the question of whether a community can resist disturbing changes – events and trends - and surprises, but rather if it can tolerate them and co-evolve. It aims at identifying what can be done in a practical sense, in which way and by whom in order to enhance cities’ resilience to climate change hazards.

RAMSES started to work on urban policies and governance for climate change adaptation. The final aim is to integrate a top-down with a more bottom-up approach for adaptation in cities. The starting point is the growing awareness that adaptation in the context of climate change is not a linear and deterministic process and that it cannot be exclusively impact and vulnerability driven. By studying the decision-making process at different levels of governance in several RAMSES case cities, the research seeks to portray the wide ranges of adaptation processes and innovation initiated in very different contexts. It relies on the experience and knowledge of communities and empirically identifies relevant vulnerabilities, strategies and decision-making processes with regard to adaptation. It demonstrates that climate is often considered together with other environmental and social stresses, contributing to the so-called 'mainstreaming' of adaptation.

Further reports will include a review of 'adaptation tools' and their efficiency as well as intensive field works to study the decision making process in various urban contexts.


III) RAMSES Deliverables available online

The following RAMSES reports can be downloaded from the project website:

Synthesis review on resilient architecture and infrastructure indicators

This report provides an overview of the most relevant indicators in architecture and infrastructure currently used in climate change research and defined needs related to the urban built environment in terms of adaptation challenges.

Physical and cost typology for buildings and infrastructure/project database

The report presents new and simplified typologies for buildings and infrastructure based on different climatic stimuli.

Report on validation of agglomeration-scale climate simulations

Results from the validation phase of the urban modelling in selected RAMSES case study cities.

Review of climate change losses and adaptation costs for case studies

This report provides a review of climate change and adaptation costs for European cities, including a range of case studies and stakeholder surveys.

Analytical framework of the decision-making process on adaptation

This paper describes the analytical framework that will be used to analyse the adaptation strategies implemented by cities.

Stakeholder Survey Report

The aim of the report is to inform the RAMSES project research on the state of play with regard to adaptation and adaptation costs in European and international cities.


IV) RAMSES in a nutshell

The RAMSES project aims to develop methods and tools to quantify the expected damages due to climate change and costs of specific adaptation measures using a systems-based risk approach on a regional scale. This will allow decision makers to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation measures in cities and to consider trade-offs and inter-linkages with social and environmental issues.

In order to achieve this, urban characteristics and their inter-linkages will be identified and used to provide the local context for the assessment. In an integrated top-down and bottom-up approach risks, vulnerabilities and damages from climate change will be quantified. Associated costs and benefits of adaptation will then be assessed to support the design of sustainable transition strategies in urban areas.

RAMSES started on 1 October 2012 and will run until 30 September 2017.


Europe The work leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. 308497
Project RAMSES - Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for Cities.