Jo Phillips writes:

Our More London office reopens today after two days of closure following the Great Flood of Tooley Street. Some took the fact that the nearby Greater London Assembly building was out out of action in the week of the mayoral elections as a bad omen for Ken Livingstone. The events have demonstrated rather vividly the vulnerability of all city infrastructure; you might have thought a fifth floor office would be immune (I did), but servers and electricity supply in the basement are – unsurprisingly – vulnerable to street level flooding. Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital was similarly affected.

In this instance, 7 million litres of water poured out of a burst water main. But it gives us a glimpse of a possible future London — as we see more climate-change related extreme weather events, what will change? What I learnt was that crises in the real world push us further into the virtual world. With email and phone systems down, our company used text messages and a blog to disseminate important information. Local residents similarly used the SE1 community forum to communicate with each other. One possible outcome is an increase in mobile working (or more exactly, ‘extended working’, in which the workplace is extended in space and time), but this leads to interesting questions about infrastructure. Maybe not that sensible to leave it below street level when the local flood risk map looks like this:

So maybe there’s likely to be less emphasis on managing your own infrastructure, and more on getting it delivered to you as a service by a supplier – already a strong developing trend, as Nicholas Carr blogged this week. Having servers down in the basement may provide an illusion of control, but would not prove very resilient in a world of increasing environmental risk.

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