Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering


Civil Engineering ( Construction Engineering and Management)

First Advisor

Cristina Poleacovschi


Climate change has increased the global number of natural disasters and resulted in historic numbers of human displacement. Despite this surge in global displacement, multilateral policies have been slow to adapt. Because policy has been slow to change, infrastructure managers often have to rely on outdated or inadequate methods to respond during the three displacement phases: preparedness phase, emergency phase, and recovery phase. To critically evaluate these shortcomings, this dissertation asks the question “How can infrastructure managers improve responses at each phase of displacement?”

The preparedness phase refers to the time before a displacement event (e.g., a disaster or conflict) in which the government can implement infrastructure or policies to mitigate potential displacement impacts. While this stage is critical, most multilateral preparedness strategies focus on addressing risk and response on a global scale. This involves viewing local governments as aid-recipients instead of development partners. The issues with global preparedness responses are apparent in Cambodia. In 2019, over 70,000 people were displaced because of disasters such as floods and droughts. The impacts of these events are amplified by ineffective water resources infrastructure. The government has struggled to improve its infrastructure because of competing priorities among different agencies and a high-reliance on foreign aid. This chapter suggests that water harvesting – i.e., the collection and management of floodwater or rainwater runoff to increase water availability for domestic and agricultural use - is one approach that could help improve Cambodia’s resiliency against droughts and floods. Despite the known benefits of water harvesting, there are currently few studies on water harvesting suitability in Cambodia. This research argues that suitable water harvesting sites can be identified by combining local expertise and evaluating specific site conditions. To achieve this goal, this research uses a combination of geospatial analysis and analytical hierarchy processes to identify suitable sites for water harvesting reservoirs. To determine suitable sites for water harvesting reservoirs, pairwise comparisons were performed between essential engineering criteria: soil drainage, geologic porosity, precipitation, and slope. Model weights were assigned based on the pairwise comparisons made by 31 local water infrastructure experts. A water harvesting suitability model showed that 19% of Cambodian land has high suitability, and about 13% of the land has the best suitability. This water harvesting model can help guide future water infrastructure projects aimed at improving climate resiliency by identifying what sites are suitable for water harvesting reservoirs.

The emergency phase involves rapidly responding to a displacement event by providing emergency housing and resources to displaced people. Governments commonly view this phase as being short-term and therefore tend to implement traditional approaches to housing such as refugee camps. Issues with conventional short-term emergency response are readily seen in Greece. Since 2015, more than a million displaced people have requested asylum in Europe. In 2016, the nations around Greece closed their borders, stranding over 60,000 displaced people in temporary housing with no clear timeline. Despite many displaced people being left in Greece for years at a time, the government still largely uses the temporary refugee camp response. As refugee camps are no longer temporary facilities and refugees spend significant time in them, infrastructure components- i.e., the engineered component in the camp’s built-environment (e.g., water, electricity, and sanitation) - are expected to affect displaced people’s social capital. Social capital represents the social networks built between displaced people, the host community, and government actors. Despite the known importance of social capital for displaced people, it is not fully understood how the design of a refugee camp fosters or inhibits social capital. This research asks, “which salient infrastructure components and demographic characteristics in a refugee camp foster social capital?” Sixty-eight surveys were distributed in a Greek refugee camp to evaluate how salient infrastructure components in the camp environment affect bonding, bridging, and linking social capital. In this study, salient infrastructure components represent the most important infrastructure components in the camp environment, as identified by the displaced persons in the camp. Linear regression is used to identify demographics (e.g., gender, nationality, age, asylum status, family status, marital status) and salient infrastructure components (e.g., lighting, kitchen utensils) that influence bonding and bridging social capital. Interestingly, demographics and salient infrastructure components were shown to have no relationship with linking social capital. This research proposes methods for policymakers and camp managers to assist with identifying which factors drive the formation of social capital. By identifying these factors, camp managers can make targeted changes in the camp environment that can potentially foster the formation of social capital.

The recovery phase occurs after displaced people are resettled from temporary housing to either their home community or permanent housing in a hosting community. This involves helping displaced people return to a more normal and independent life . While the recovery phase is essential for the long-term wellbeing of displaced people, this phase can impose unique challenges for the community receiving displaced people. Over 722,000 people applied for asylum in cities throughout Germany in 2016. To account for increased users, utility managers may need to expand the capacity of their systems temporarily or permanently. However, in displacement situations, the financial burden of these expansions is primarily shifted to the hosting community. Understanding the hosting community’s public support is critical to understand because negative public support can adversely impact a project’s schedule, resources, and budget. Therefore, utility managers need to heavily rely on public support to help with the planning and financing. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate what factors influence public support in displacement situations so utilities can be provided to displaced people. To address this gap, this study uses place attachment theory to assess what personal beliefs, demographic factors, and geographic parameters associate with public support. The team used data gathered through a survey distributed to all 16 German States in 2016 (n = 416). The multinomial logistic analysis showed that drivers of public support included trust in the utility provider, willingness to participate in utility decisions, and willingness to provide utilities to those who cannot pay. The findings suggest that utility managers should build trust with the host community and foster participation to increase public support. Also, this work shows how place attachment theory can be used to explain public support in displacement scenarios.


Copyright Owner

Michael Robert Ward



File Format


File Size

183 pages

Available for download on Friday, January 07, 2022