• Resilience
  • Resilience Disaster Recovery
  • Climate Action
  • City Innovation
  • Smart City

Developing Innovative Resilience Hubs for Smart Cities

Grant Samms
Apr 19, 2022

Guidehouse Insights

Cities are a level of government especially well-suited to climate adaptation because they have an intimate understanding of the specific climate challenges their citizens face. One innovation that cities are using to mitigate climate impacts is developing resilience hubs that organize social and economic resources in areas where climate resilience is low. 

These hubs are created when a trusted social institution such as a church or community center is fortified to be able to deliver services in times of stress. Resilience hubs can be considered forward operating bases of emergency response that can snap into action at a moment’s notice while a more comprehensive response is organized. The specifics of each hub differ based on community need but might include microgrids and distributed energy resources (DER) to ensure electricity for HVAC and medical devices, kitchens that can provide local food response, and bases for first responder coordination.

US Cities Developing Resilience Hubs

Examples of resilience hubs from Baltimore and Minneapolis demonstrate the effectiveness of these places in responding to climate-intensified stresses. In Baltimore, several city offices including the departments of health, sustainability, and emergency management built partnerships with service-based community organizations that were already well established in vulnerable communities. Specific locations were selected with consideration to climate, health, and social vulnerabilities. One of Baltimore’s primary goals with the hubs was to install solar generation and battery backup to ensure access to electricity for critical uses during an event such as a hurricane. This goal led to partnerships with local solar and battery companies that provided input on system design. 

In Minneapolis, resilience hubs are being planned as part of a suite of changes to improve the livability of all residents, especially those from historically marginalized backgrounds. Although planning is still underway, partnerships are already forming between city departments such as the health department and the sustainability division as well as DER providers and social justice groups. A key goal of the hubs in Minneapolis is to not only provide energy for critical functions during emergencies but also host emergency preparedness and energy efficiency workshops. The hubs can also serve as a base for launching social initiatives from healthy home visits for children with asthma to improving energy efficiency in rental properties. 

Existing Resources Can Have Greater Impact

Although many resilience hubs are still in the design and trial phases, early results suggest that taking a targeted, local approach can more efficiently bring resources to those communities in need of resilience. Cities are typically the first line of response for residents in the aftermath of climate-affected events and preemptively organizing resources through the resilience hub model can improve outcomes when emergencies arise. Cities are also in a strong position to develop the necessary partnerships between public, private, and nonprofit entities to identify these needs and address them. The examples set by Baltimore and Minneapolis show that existing resources can have greater impacts when carefully and innovatively arranged.