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Sustainable Critical Infrastruture Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives - Report of a Workshop Summary For the people of the United States, the 20th century was one of unprecedented population growth, economic development, and improved quality of life. As the population grew by 205 million (U.S. DOC, 2008), Americans invested huge sums of money to meet a range of social, economic, and political imperatives or urgent needs. These imperatives included providing for public health, safety, and comfort, national security, economic expansion, and job growth. Meeting these imperatives required the construction of water, wastewater, and power systems, as well as roads, railways, airports, and telecommunications systems. As these imperatives were met, cities and regions were developed, great swathes of forest and land were cleared, rivers were controlled and channeled, and renewable and nonrenewable resources were harvested, extracted, and productively used. The critical infrastructure systems—water, wastewater, power, transportation, and telecommunications1—built in the 20th century have become so much a part of modern life that they 1 Infrastructure systems have been defined differently by different groups. For example, the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Protection Plan identifies 18 types of infrastructure (DHS, 2009). The American Society of Civil Engineers’ “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” identifies 15 types (ASCE, 2005). In this report, critical infrastructure systems are defined as power, water, wastewater, telecommunications, and transportation systems. These five systems are the lifelines without which other types of infrastructure (e.g., banking and finance, government facilities, schools) cannot operate as intended.
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Sustainable Critical Infrastruture Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives - Report of a Workshop are taken for granted. Today, Americans expect reliable power, clean drinking water, uncomplicated travel, and easy communications. Businesses and industries rely on infrastructure systems to transport raw materials, manufacture products, deliver goods, share ideas, and conduct transactions. The demands on these critical systems will continue to grow: By 2030, 60 million more Americans, in addition to new businesses and employers, will expect these systems to deliver essential services (U.S. DOC, 2008). The quality of life for Americans in the 21st century will depend in part on whether the nation’s critical infrastructure systems can meet such expectations. At the same time, other national challenges that will affect quality of life include, but are not limited to, the following: Remaining economically competitive with the European Union, China, India, and other economic powers; Reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil; Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change; Protecting the environment and conserving increasingly scarce natural resources, including potable water; and Developing the capacity to withstand and recover quickly from natural and human-made disasters.2 Meeting these challenges requires critical infrastructure systems that are efficient, reliable, and cost-effective. If the United States is to remain a global economic leader, new methods and corridors will be needed to move goods and services efficiently to and from domestic and international markets, including Canada and Mexico. Reducing petroleum imports will require strategies to reduce demand and may require new infrastructure—microgeneration facilities, power plants, and distribution networks—for the efficient generation, storage, distribution, and use of power from alternative sources of energy. Today, electric power and transportation account for 40 percent and 29 percent, respectively, of the nation’s total annual energy use, and together they account for more than 50 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change (EIA, 2008b). Significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions 2 Imperatives besides those listed include health care and the solvency of the Social Security system.
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Sustainable Critical Infrastruture Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives - Report of a Workshop will require that power and mobility be provided in new ways using new systems and technologies. Limiting deaths and injuries, property losses, impacts on ecosystems, and recovery time after natural or human-made disasters requires robust and resilient infrastructure systems. The processes and materials used to renew or create critical infrastructure systems will be significant factors in achieving or failing to achieve environmental sustainability. Large segments and components of the nation’s critical infrastructure systems are now 50 to 100 years old. Their performance and condition are deteriorating, as evidenced by transportation congestion, air and water pollution, and increasing instances of power and other service disruptions (ASCE, 2009; Amin, 2008). In recent years, both public and private organizations have called for improvements in critical infrastructure systems, often recommending massive financial investments.3 However, approaching infrastructure renewal by continuing to use the same processes, practices, technologies, and materials that were developed in the 20th century will likely yield the same results: increasing instances of service disruptions, higher operating and repair costs, and the possibility of catastrophic, cascading failures such as those in New Orleans in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. If the nation is to meet some of the important challenges of the 21st century, a new paradigm for the renewal of critical infrastructure systems is needed. BACKGROUND In 2007, the National Research Council (NRC) appointed an ad hoc committee of experts (Appendix A provides biosketches of the committee members) to identify and frame fundamental challenges in moving toward critical infrastructure systems that are physically, socially, economically, and environmentally sus- 3 See, for example, “America’s Infrastructure: Ramping Up or Crashing Down” (Katz et al., 2007); “Guiding Principles for Strengthening America’s Infrastructure” (CSIS, 2006); “A New Bank to Save Our Infrastructure” (Ehrlich and Rohatyn, 2008); “Time for an Infrastructure Overhaul” (Little, 2007); “It’s Time to Rebuild America” (Rohatyn and Rudman, 2005); “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure—2009” (ASCE, 2009); and “Main Street, Not Wall Street, Should Fix Crumbling Infrastructure” (Sebelius and Stern, 2008).
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Sustainable Critical Infrastruture Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives - Report of a Workshop tainable.4 As its principal data-gathering activity, the committee conducted a workshop on May 7 and 8, 2008, in Washington, D.C., bringing together approximately 50 experts from government, academia, and the private sector (Appendix B presents the list of participants, and Appendix C includes the workshop agenda). This report summarizes the committee’s findings based on the workshop outcomes (Appendix D provides a succinct presentation of the outcomes), published materials, and the expertise and experience of its members. It provides a new context for thinking about the purposes and value of critical infrastructure systems: It does so by focusing on the links between some of the imperatives of the 21st century (economic competitiveness, global climate change, reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil, disaster resiliency, and environmental sustainability) and the performance of critical infrastructure systems. The report does not make specific recommendations, but instead it identifies a framework for developing a new paradigm for investing in and renewing critical infrastructure systems in ways that will also help meet other 21st century challenges. FINDINGS Renewing and restructuring the nation’s critical infrastructure systems to meet some of the important challenges of the 21st century constitute a task radically different from that of building new systems across undeveloped territory. Renewal efforts must take into account an extensive network of existing systems, urban development, ownership patterns, construction processes, management practices, financing mechanisms, and regulatory mandates. Every year public- and private-sector organizations spend hundreds of billions of dollars to operate and maintain power, water, wastewater, transportation, and telecommunications systems. At least $285 billion was invested in these efforts in 2004 alone (CBO, 2008). Nonetheless, this level of investment has not been adequate, as evidenced by the deteriorating condition of these systems. The resources available to renew and restructure 4 The committee defined sustainable as meeting today’s economic, social, and environmental needs while enhancing the ability of future generations to meet their economic, social, and environmental needs.
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Sustainable Critical Infrastruture Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives - Report of a Workshop these systems will be limited for the foreseeable future, and investment choices will need to be made. At a time when many have called for infrastructure renewal in some form and have suggested billions or trillions in investment, there is an important opportunity to fundamentally reexamine the purposes and value of critical infrastructure systems and of the decision-making processes used for investing in them. While daunting, this reexamination can yield a new paradigm from which to develop practical, cost-effective solutions to complex challenges and help meet the needs of future generations. Some of the ingredients needed to create a new paradigm are available today. Research has yielded technologies for monitoring infrastructure condition and performance, new materials for constructing and repairing infrastructure components, and new knowledge about the interrelated nature of water and wastewater, power, transportation, and telecommunications systems. Self-diagnosing, self-healing, and self-repairing systems can be designed to provide for greater resiliency, fewer long-term service disruptions, and lower life-cycle costs (Amin and Stringer, 2008). An array of financing mechanisms, strategies, plans, and approaches to infrastructure renewal that offer new ways to provide for essential services has been developed through local, state, and regional initiatives. To date, however, infrastructure-related technological advances, plans, approaches, and community-based initiatives have been ad hoc in nature, often focusing on one issue, one type of system, or one set of solutions. Lacking a national vision or strategy for critical infrastructure renewal and concentrating on single projects, technologies, financing mechanisms, or narrowly defined objectives, ad hoc efforts run the risk of underutilizing or wasting scarce resources and increasing the probability of serious, unintended consequences. A framework is needed to structure these efforts so that ongoing activities, knowledge, and technologies can be aligned and leveraged to help meet multiple national objectives. The essential components of the needed framework are as follows: A broad and compelling vision that will inspire individuals and organizations to pull together to help meet 21st century imperatives by renewing the nation’s critical infrastructure systems. Such a vision would focus on a future of economic competitiveness, energy indepen-
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Sustainable Critical Infrastruture Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives - Report of a Workshop dence, environmental sustainability, and quality of life, not a legacy of concrete, steel, and cables. A focus on providing the essential services involving water and wastewater, power, mobility, and connectivity—in contrast to upgrading individual physical facilities—to foster innovative thinking and solutions. Recognition of the interdependencies among critical infrastructure systems to enable the achievement of multiple objectives and to avoid narrowly focused solutions that may well have serious, unintended consequences. Collaborative, systems-based approaches to leverage available resources and provide for cost-effective solutions across institutional and jurisdictional boundaries. Performance measures to provide for greater transparency in decision making by quantifying the links among infrastructure investments, the availability of essential services, and other national imperatives. An important first step in creating a new paradigm is to bring together those who have an essential stake in meeting 21st century imperatives and who are already involved in sustainable infrastructure efforts. They include infrastructure owners, designers, engineers, financiers, regulators, and policy makers, as well as ecologists, community activists, scientists, and researchers. Working within the framework, experts in such areas could begin to identify a full range of new approaches, technologies, and materials for providing services involving mobility, connectivity, water, wastewater, and power to meet multiple objectives. They could also identify new approaches to the decision making, finance, and operations processes related to critical infrastructure systems. The results of such a gathering could serve to initiate a longer-term, collaborative effort to develop a vision that would provide guidance for developing concepts and objectives for the nation’s critical infrastructure systems and then to identify the policies, practices, and resources required to implement them. The results could be critical infrastructure systems that are physically resilient, cost-effective, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable for the next 50 years.