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Mission

The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.

Risk and Resilience along Houston's Ship Channel: Uncovering Links between Vital Social, Environmental and Physical Systems 

Exploring coupled engineering and societal implications of hazard risks in coastal communities 

Team 

Jamie Padgett, Rice University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Philip Bedient, Rice University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

James Elliott, Rice University, Department of Sociology

Regina Buono, Rice University, Baker Institute, Fellow in Energy and Environmental Regulatory Affairs 

 Padgett-Jamie pic  BedientPhilpicsm13  Elliott-James pic    Buono-Regina pic 
Jamie Padgett Philip Bedient James Elliott Regina Buono

Linkages 4 Disciplines chartFigure 1. Linkages between four disciplines represented in the project 

Project Background 

The objective of this project is to explore coupled engineering and societal implications of hazard risks in coastal communities that house not only people but also industrial and energy infrastructure of national importance.  Specifically we will seek to develop integrated models of built-human-natural systems using the Houston Ship Channel (HSC) region as a case study.

This project aims to advance understanding of the factors and conditions that affect storm surge risks (both current and projected in the future) including energy/industrial infrastructure and community impacts. Furthermore, this project will also shed new light on viable combinations of structural, natural, and policy-based solutions that improve storm surge resiliency, offering an interdisciplinary analysis framework (Figure 1) that can be applied to other parts of the Gulf Coast and the nation. 

As a part of this exploration we will develop new models of the storm integrity of key energy/industrial infrastructures, such as tank farms, while evaluating the effectiveness of targeted alternative risk mitigation strategies for the critical energy infrastructure and industrial regions of Houston. Furthermore, we seek to examine issues of urban-environmental change related to the pursuit of surge resilience, such as the social inequalities revealed and exacerbated by natural hazards, societal implications of hazardous material spills during these events, and community perception and engagement in identifying risk mitigation strategies. 

The regulatory policy context of the region will also be studied with respect to the laws and regulations that are perceived to increase or decrease risk, while also deepening understanding of how institutional and legal factors are impacting the lives of local residents.

Shell Center for Sustainability 

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