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Bruna Paranhos

Global Solutions Director for Sustainability and Climate Response at Jacobs

Panelist on Delivering Resilient & Sustainable Infrastructure

Bruna Paranhos, PE, ENV SP, WEDG, Global Solutions Director for Sustainability & Climate Response, brings a diverse background as Project Manager and Subject Matter Expert for climate resilient and sustainable infrastructure projects. Her projects include the first major flood protection project in lower Manhattan ($1.45B East Side Coastal Resiliency), climate change vulnerability assessments and resilience planning for the U.S. Air Force and Department of Energy, flood protection projects for critical infrastructure such as the Holland Tunnel and sustainability assessments and workshops for Jacobs’ clients.


In 2022, Bruna spearheaded the Michigan Department of Transportation's Inductive Charging Project in Detroit to design and build the first wireless EV charging roadway in the US. Her decarbonization projects include advising Port of Long Beach on their fleet transition to zero emission technologies by 2030 and supporting an offshore wind developer to secure power purchase agreements in New England. Bruna sits in Boston, MA, and serves on the Climate Adaptation Forum Steering Committee and as Vice Chair of the Environmental Business Council Climate Change & Air Committee.

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Expert insight: Delivering resilient and sustainable infrastructure for a changing climate

Expert insights from Bruna Paranhos, Jacobs’ global solutions director for sustainability and climate response, ahead of her presentation at our resilient infrastructure panel at Environment Analyst's 2024 Sustainability Delivery Summit in Boston, MA.


EA: What are the critical steps to ensure that sustainability metrics are prioritized from the outset and across the asset’s full lifecycle – and to help close 'the gap' between environmental & social objectives and engineering design teams?


BP: In the infrastructure industry, achieving sustainability goes beyond simply minimizing environmental impact. It's a comprehensive approach that considers the complex interactions between humans and the environment, encompassing social and economic factors alongside ecological concerns. Ideally, resilient and sustainable infrastructure maximizes positive impacts. At Jacobs, we view this multifaceted approach through a dual lens: sustainability and resilience. 

The sustainability lens asks the critical question: How does our project impact the world? This lens compels us to design with the well-being of future generations in mind, minimizing environmental harm, promoting resource efficiency, and considering the social equity implications of our projects. The resilience lens, on the other hand, asks: How will the world impact our project? This encourages us to anticipate and design for future change and disruption like climate change, population growth or economic shifts. By incorporating resilience principles, infrastructure can adapt to these challenges, maintain functionality, minimize downtime and ensure an optimal return to normal operations. 

EA: How is the growing application of the Envision sustainability framework and rise of social equity and environmental justice considerations changing the approach to infrastructure development?

BP: The goal of sustainability assessments such as Envision, LEED, SITES and WEDG, goes beyond credentialing and certification. They aim to create systemic change by mainstreaming sustainable and resilient infrastructure. They encourage an increased focus on the integration of social equity, economic viability and climate resilience, alongside traditional environmental considerations. This means infrastructure projects are not just environmentally friendly but also place the needs of the community they serve at the forefront. 

EA: Can you provide some examples of innovative approaches to increase climate mitigation and embed resilience into infrastructure assets utilizing nature-based solutions?

BP: Nature-based solutions (NBS) are increasingly popular due to their ability to address climate change while promoting sustainability. NBS such as coastal mangroves to protect from floods and storm surge often grow stronger with time. In urban settings, green roofs and rain gardens help reduce flooding, provide cooling benefits, and collect rainwater for later use. 

An example of innovative NBS in action is the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project in New York City. This 2.5-mile flood protection project for Lower Manhattan incorporates design features such as diverse vegetation known for resiliency and durability as well as ECOncrete® blocks in the coastal revetments, which promotes marine growth through their specialized geometry and textured design. The project used ECOncrete® Tide Pool Armor, ECO Armor blocks and Sea Pillars. Tide Pool Armor are prefabricated units that mimic natural rock pools and are placed in the tidal zone to increase biodiversity. ECO Armor blocks are modular units with specialized textures to promote marine growth. In locations of existing piles, encasements called ‘sea pillars’ were used to transform abandoned piles into marine habitat. 

Because of our recognized expertise, we play a leading role in adapting innovative approaches to infrastructure and landscape design. In the 1980s, Jacobs pioneered the concept of regional low impact development with scientific publications, and we continue to offer industry-leading development of innovative approaches for nature-based solutions through projects and partnerships such as with Biomimicry 3.8

EA: How can we utilize climate vulnerability assessments to help manage project risk and facilitate investment – and how is the approach evolving given the sharpening of climate-induced stresses we are seeing more and more of?   


BP: Climate vulnerability assessments are essential tools to understand project and asset climate risks. This can help stakeholders make informed investments into the most impactful projects for reducing risk.  

In 2020, we supported the U.S. government with Severe Weather and Climate Hazard risk assessments to integrate climate risk into facility planning and projects. The assessment involved three main phases:

  1. Phase 1 – Screen Hazards: Screen each potential hazard to identify the hazards that could impact a project currently and/or in the future.

  2. Phase 2 – Assess Risk: Assign probability, severity, and risk ratings through a risk assessment framework for applicable current and future hazards.

  3. Phase 3 – Determine Next Steps: Define the next steps needed to address and mitigate the potential impacts of applicable current and future hazards. Prioritize resilience measures that mitigate the greatest risks. 


With these assessments, the organizations could focus their investment on the highest risk climate stresses and reduce vulnerabilities quickly. It also sharpened their perspectives on scenario planning and allowed them to maintain a dataset that could be updated over time as climate risks evolve. 

In summary, integrating the dual lens of resilience and sustainability from the very beginning of a project means infrastructure is engineered and designed in a safer, more cost-effective way. It is more efficient and will lead to greater benefits for the communities it serves. A project that is safe, on time, on budget and creates positive impacts on the environment and for local people is a project we can all get behind.

Hear more from Bruna at the Summit

Meet Bruna and learn more about delivering resilient and sustainable infrastructure for a changing climate at the  Summit this June (24-26 June 2024, Boston).

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