The ‘Flexible Design’ principle means that a design can be easily adapted if circumstances change in the future. This may concern different climatological conditions or a change in people’s needs and preferences. By making a design flexible, creating added value in the future will become easier and more cost-effective.
By creating flexible designs, Witteveen+Bos can anticipate future developments and factor in uncertainties. We take account of long-term scenarios and developments, and work with our clients to look at whether upcoming changes and developments can play a role in the design. That could concern physical changes, such as climate change resulting in heat, drought, intense precipitation and sea level rise or soil subsidence, but also societal changes resulting from changes in policy or behavioural standards as well as consumer trends, such as the adoption of e-bikes, and new scientific insights and technological developments such as autonomous cars. The functionality and value of designs by Witteveen+Bos will therefore be preserved throughout their life cycle in a range of future scenarios.
Three perspectives on flexible designs
Robustness, adaptability and resilience are three perspectives to take into account when drawing up flexible designs. A robust ‘first time right’ design lasts the entire life cycle. This may be necessary in the case of a flood defence structure that needs to be reinforced to add 50 years to its life cycle, or for adding transmission capacity to a high-voltage line in anticipation of the energy transition. An adaptable design meets the applicable requirements during part of the life cycle, and can be easily adjusted when circumstances change. This may be necessary if software or equipment have a major role as in, for instance, drive mechanisms and/or infrastructural operating systems. And, lastly, rather than focus on the strength of an object, a resilient design will focus on the resilience of the system this object is a part of. This means physical solutions may not always be the only answer but that, for instance, taking out flood insurance, buying options or investing in relief and reconstruction plans instead of prevention plans are also investigated. Another good example of resilience is the solution by Share My City for water storage on private land.