CAR Risk is a leading UK consultancy with an international reputation in risk studies. CAR’s vulnerability-based approach has been used in projects ranging across the full spectrum of natural and man-made hazards which affect the built environment. These include catastrophe perils such as earthquake, volcanic eruption, tropical and temperate windstorm, and flood, as well as routine perils such as subsidence, burglary, and unexploded ordnance. Over 25 years of its existence, CAR has built up a prestigious and international client base, working on projects in some 30 countries across 5 continents.
History of the CAR Risk Group
CAR was founded in 1987 by a group of academics from the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies, a research unit within Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture. The Martin Centre has many years’ experience of research on the vulnerability of the built environment to a wide range of natural and man-made hazards. From the foundation of CAR, risk in the built environment has been a core area of the company’s activities. CAR’s early experience in this field focused on conducting damage surveys in the aftermath of major events, analysing building damage and correlating damage levels with earthquake intensity and construction type. These first-hand data formed the basis for the development of CAR’s expertise in risk assessment and mitigation in developing countries and earthquake-prone regions around the world, carried out for government agencies and international organisations involved in civil protection and post-disaster recovery. Before long, CAR’s know-how attracted the attention of private sector clients such as insurance companies, who saw the potential for integrating CAR’s vulnerability models with their existing earthquake occurrence models to produce a more accurate loss estimation capability. During the 1990s, CAR extended its risk modelling capability in breadth and depth, developing models for a wide range of perils and territories, as well as co-operating with hazard specialists to develop standalone risk models capable of offering clients a turnkey solution.
CAR’s contribution to the science of risk modelling
When CAR first became involved in risk studies in the 1990s, the science of catastrophe modelling was predominantly hazard-driven, with the emphasis placed on predicting the frequency, severity and geographic distribution of natural hazards, while the building stock exposed to these hazards was assumed to be a largely homogenous entity with limited variation in vulnerability between building types or geographic regions. This approach reflected the scarcity of reliable data on building performance around the world, but it represented a fundamental weakness in the science, insofar as risk is a function of both hazard and vulnerability. Only vulnerability can explain why a small earthquake in India results in higher casualties and more destruction than a large earthquake in California. Furthermore, while earthquakes and hurricanes are natural phenomena which are inherently difficult to predict, buildings are man-made structures whose performance is more susceptible to prediction and modification. By focusing systematically on the vulnerability of buildings and infrastructure, CAR has been able, in co-operation with hazard specialists, to significantly refine the loss prediction process. With its research hinterland in the fields of structural engineering and building technology, CAR was ideally qualified to make this important contribution to the science of catastrophe modelling, which has now become a standard feature of state-of-the-art catastrophe models worldwide.