Introduction and welcome

The world is changing fast, and so appears to change the origin and character of the risks in structural engineering. We have today more knowledge and computing power than ever to realise, simulate and visualise our designs and constructions, as well as to monitor their optimal usage and maintenance. We have recognized well several megatrends like climate change, urbanisation, pollution and threats of terrorist attacks. We are ready to design our structures for bigger floods, tsunamis, traffic volumes, fires and wind borne debris; as well blast loads and aggressive agents in environment.

The key risks and hazards appears to include additions to traditional design, construction & operation errors and excessive loads. One simple example is hiding of safety-critical information into the big information flow. As in the future the design is likely to be done in a collaborative meetings of dozens of stakeholders in virtual reality, is a word of structural expert any longer heard, and are all the rapidly occurring design changes properly addressed and reacted. Who will supervise locally the gigantic global companies providing engineering, construction, financing and operation from the same entity, and implementing the project using their own internal technical guidelines?

In countries like Japan, which are known to have severe natural hazards like earthquake, typhoons, landslides and tsunamis, risk-handling procedures and nation disaster recovery plans are obviously well established. In countries like Finland, where such natural disaster do not exist at the moment, the viewpoint is slightly different. As an example, new energy saving requirements in house heating during winter put the insulation needs and interests to locally produced and stored energy onto new level. Little is known so far from the mould problems, toxicity and other health hazards the related structures might cause; or increased fire loads the new equipment may produce. These are just few examples of thinking that reasons the structural robustness to be more topical than before. Our thinking of all possible risks and hazards is limited by its nature, but we can start design our structures to be more robust – no matter what is the reason of the malfunction or failure. It could be a human error in a busy project team, as well as a new microbe that starts spreading in warmed climate and eat away the foundations of our structures.

Structural safety and robustness were addressed in two IABSE workshops and a summit in years 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Finland. Being impressed with the productive discussions and the scientific work already conducted in various countries, we would will like to continue this dialogue. IABSE Summit Global Risks in Structural Engineering serves a meeting point to professional who would like to extend discussion of the theme beyond the ordinary viewpoints. The Summit copes to locate itself between scientific conferences and annual meetings of engineering societies. Speakers are not requested to provide scientific papers, but yet the discussions are targeted to base on the solid background of science. The target is to identify those issues, methods and concepts that the most topical, and should be addressed more thoroughly in upcoming larger events. We heartily welcome you to the IABSE Summit to hear your contribution!