There is a growing interest in distributed systems as an alternative design and governance approach for the provision of critical resources (eg. energy, water and food). This interest is partly driven by a growing awareness that existing production and consumption systems are vulnerable to stresses such as climate change and resource scarcity. These vulnerabilities are effectively ‘built-in’ to current governance and infrastructure system designs. Simultaneously there is a recognition that distributed systems have greater capacity to avoid environmental impacts; act as a catalyst for social innovation and as sources of social connectedness; re-energize citizen engagement and build community resilience.
The distributed model sees infrastructure and critical service systems (for water, energy and food etc.) positioned close to resources and points of demand. Individual systems may operate as separate, modular adaptive units but are also nested within ever-wider networks of exchange – at the local, regional or global level. Services traditionally provided by large, centralised infrastructures are instead delivered via the collective capacity of many smaller diverse systems. Each is tailored to the needs and opportunities of unique locations but with the capacity to transfer resources across a much wider area. In essence – a system of networked highly localised systems of resource and service provision.
The distributed system model underpins much of VEIL’s research, design and strategic advisory work. In a sense we are constantly testing and refining our understanding of distributed systems – their design, application and evolution.
We have produced four extended briefing papers so far which outline:
• Developments in distributed energy systems
• The adaptive value of distributed water service provision
• How the distributed model is critical for building infrastructure resilience
• Novel examples of distributed approaches applied in Victoria
We are developing a major research project to test and model the implications of distributed systems on the resilience of critical urban functions in Melbourne. Watch this space!
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