Discussion Thread

New Perspective on Infrastructure

  • 1.  New Perspective on Infrastructure

    Posted 06-11-2019 11:06 AM

    I'm constantly working with new technologies in the energy industry. These advances are made by the need to make society sustainable, resilient, and safe for both present and future circumstances. ASCE released Future World Vision – Infrastructure Reimagined to talk about some of the challenges we will face as emerging leaders in civil engineering. It's looking into the future to see how best prepare for the design needs ahead. The infrastructure we build can last decades so I think it's very practical to start thinking about the future now.

    In the ASCE News Article, Reprogram How You Think About infrastructure, Mikhail Chester talks about the importance of making infrastructure more agile and more flexible.

    I wanted to start a discussion on the Future of Infrastructure. How YOU as an engineer would like to reimagine infrastructure as we know it?



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    Paul Lee, P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineering Associate
    Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 2.  RE: New Perspective on Infrastructure

    Posted 06-12-2019 10:41 AM
    ​What a great question. I'd like to broaden and ground it a little bit.

    I've spent the last 10 years studying engineering of infrastructure supported by permafrost in some of the most rural areas of Alaska and Canada. The only infrastructure available to these communities is a runway. That is how they get their food, goods, get transported to hospitals, have sports competitions, see branches of their family, and interact with their government. Some can get barge shipments of goods on a yearly basis. One piece of very fragile infrastructure, in some areas it is supported more by ice than anything else. Some of these communities still do not have running water in their homes, nor sewer systems, mostly rural Alaska.

    How we can make these communities more connected, safer, sustainable and resilient now and in light of a changing climate? I've been working to use the concept of "Risk", probability multiplied by consequence, to try to find objective measures of ranking infrastructure for repair so we prioritize the riskiest areas. But in these regions, the social and historical contexts of colonization are still impacting people.

    So don't just think about the infrastructure and its engineering but the impact of that infrastructure on creating, resilient, safer, sustainable, dynamic communities everywhere. What does the community want/need, not what do politicians think they want? How can you use your influence as an engineer to make that happen?

    Think broader.

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    Heather Brooks P.E.,M.ASCE
    Geotechnical and Arctic Engineer
    BGC Engineering Inc.
    Edmonton AB
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  • 3.  RE: New Perspective on Infrastructure

    Posted 06-12-2019 11:52 AM
    Great discussion topic Paul. Thanks for promoting the new publication and more dialog here. Good contribution from Heather too.

    My vision (hope) is that we provide more of a systems-thinking and holistic approach to infrastructure changes. How can they be resilient, effective, and affordable for their communities throughout their intended lifespan? We are at an inflection point with "smart cities", IoT, and big data. How can we integrate sensors into infrastructure to provide for evidence-based inspection, maintenance, adaptation, and community impact? How can autonomous vehicles become integrated and even synergistic (such as using data fusion to collect their visual sensors and suspensions (pothole responses) to identify repair and maintenance issues)?

    Now that I work in disaster mitigation, I think more about making our infrastructure more effective to protect and mitigate against natural and manmade disasters. Once clever design featured in our magazine a few months ago was a large pedestrian access ramp that led to a rooftop entrance for a civic building. Ta-dah - now you've got an easy and automatic evacuation route which can double as a boat ramp in the case of high floods or a tsnumani. Integrating both worst case and future world scenarios into our infrastructure design is what we need to do more of.

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    Brett Hoffstadt EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Folsom CA
    (916)845-8347
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