Professor Dina D’Ayala, Co-Director of the Earthquake and People Interaction Centre at UCL, has pledged to improve the safety of school buildings in communities affected by natural disasters, after being awarded UNESCO Chair on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering.
The Chair will focus on research and the dissemination of new ideas, embedding teaching in other countries. This includes the creation of an online repository of materials, workshops and webinars for engineers around the world, including advice tailored to typical building types in each country.
Professor D’Ayala, who is also Head of Civil Engineering in the Department of Civil Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, plans to focus on making school buildings more resilient to natural hazards across the world. For example, if an area is prone to flooding, erecting the building on a plinth or installing flood gates can ensure the building can continue to function and deliver education.
Commenting on her appointment, Professor D’Ayala (UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering), said: "I am delighted to be awarded the UNESCO Chair on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering at UCL. The Chair means that we will be working in close collaboration with UNESCO officials to improve the safety and resilience of school buildings in communities exposed to natural hazards, to deliver a more resilient education system and fulfil the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 - ’Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all’.
"The award of the Chair recognises the international leadership of the research we have produced on these themes for some years and it will help us to achieve global impact beyond the academic realm. This can only be achieved with a system approach to retrofitting schools."
In the role, Professor D’Ayala also plans to bring researchers to UCL for six month periods to work directly with her team. An interactive app is also in the planning, which would support the data collection of different buildings’ characteristics from photos, analyse them using artificial intelligence and propose ways to make the buildings more resilient.
James Bridge, Chief Executive and Secretary-General of the UK National Commission for UNESCO said: "I wholeheartedly welcome Professor Dina D’Ayala to the UK UNESCO family, as the lead for the new UNESCO Chair on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering at University College London. The focus of this new UNESCO Chair is a prerequisite for sustainable development which is at the heart of UNESCO’s global mission in education.
"It will contribute immensely towards this mission by improving the equity of access to a safe learning environment for children in vulnerable communities. I hope that the status of UNESCO Chair allows the team to scale up their impact internationally and increase knowledge sharing with educators and engineers worldwide."
Professor D’Ayala joins 21 UK-based UNESCO Chairs, including one (Professor John Shawe-Taylor - UCL Computer Science) based at UCL.
The UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN (UNESCO’s University Twinning and Networking scheme) Network Programme now comprises 22 experts in the fields of education, science, information, culture and communication. The programme works with partners in the UK and globally to deliver UNESCO’s role of building a more peaceful and equitable world.
UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate to cover all aspects of education, including the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 4 as part of the Global Education 2030 Agenda.