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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Millions of Americans rely on the services of the nation's infrastructure, arguably the most extensive system in the history of mankind. Most of the time and in most places, the roads, water supplies, waste-disposal facilities, and other elements of infrastructure serve efficiently and reliably the wide range of economic and social activities comprising our daily lives, and few people really notice that the system is there. But sometimes a ruptured water main, street repairs, or the destruction from a major storm or earthquake provides unfortunate reminders of the infrastructure's significance. The product of centuries of technological development and decades of construction, maintenance, and management, the system has developed for the most part as separate and distinct power plants, roads, pipelines, and waste repositories, built and operated by a myriad of government agencies, independent authorities, and private corporations. Decisions made in earlier times—when populations were smaller, land was less intensively used, and we understood less about our environment—leave us with facilities that are aging and often incapable. of serving today's demands, some of them urgent. At the same time, extraordinary advances in electronics, biotechnology, materials, and other scientific and technical fields offer unprecedented opportunities for enhancing the system's performance. Decisions made today foreclose opportunities when we lack ability to project consequences. Our infrastructure can be improved, and research is a wellspring for improvement. The National Science Foundation (NSF), created to increase the nation's base of scientific and engineering knowledge and strengthen
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research its ability to conduct research in all areas of science and engineering, has been working to define the scope and extent of a program in Civil Infrastructure Systems (CIS). The NSF asked the National Research Council's (NRC) Building Research Board (BRB), in cooperation with the Geotechnical Board (GEOB), to undertake a study to provide advice on an infrastructure research agenda (Chapter 1). This report documents the work and recommendations of the committee appointed to undertake that study. INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SYSTEM The basic premise that infrastructure is an integrated system was adopted early in the study, and led the committee to look beyond its initial scope to a broader range of research needs and opportunities. The artificial disciplinary and institutional divisions among infrastructure modes and professions are largely historical artifacts that impose barriers to development and adoption of new technology. The NSF can make a great contribution to progress in enhancing the nation's infrastructure by continuing to adopt this broad view and thereby fostering a truly interdisciplinary approach to infrastructure research. Infrastructure comprises both private- and public-sector elements, and current trends toward privatization of some modes while others are shifting toward greater government involvement make it difficult to state a sharp definition of "public." Nevertheless, "public" conveys meanings related to service to the public, public ownership or operation, and public-sector economics that can be used to guide but not to constrain tightly—the scope of this infrastructure research agenda. Efforts to improve public infrastructure are most frequently targeted at immediate problems, but the medium-term future—ten to twenty years hence—offers opportunities for greater influence in the long physical life of infrastructure facilities and technologies. However, rapid major change in existing networks and patterns of urban development are unlikely to occur within the time frame of a realistic research agenda. This study therefore focused on a search for infrastructure technologies that (1) are suited to incorporation within or overlay on current systems, without requiring substantial destruction of existing urban fabric, (2) permit alternative future urban development and are unlikely to damage the viability of existing urban areas, and (3) are likely to have value cutting across the distinct functional modes of infrastructure. INFRASTRUCTURE RESEARCH AND THE NSF'S ROLE Information on the overall level and scope of U.S. spending on infrastructure research, development, and technology adaptation activities is not well developed. Spending occurs in both public and private sectors,
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research and in uncoordinated individual municipalities and commercial enterprises as well as large government or corporate programs. Study estimates place the total annual research and development (R&D) spending on infrastructure-related technology in the United States at approximately $2.2 billion, much of it in areas of technology generally associated with the civil engineering profession. This spending supports research at government laboratories, universities, quasi-governmental laboratories, and private research organizations; and much of it is directed at investigation of specific problems encountered in practice (Chapter 2). The federal government is the principal source of infrastructure research spending overall, but the level of effort varies substantially among infrastructure's principal functional modes. At the one extreme, highway research has long been reliably supported by budget allocations from federal and state gasoline tax revenues and is conducted in many government laboratories (federal and state), universities, and many private companies. At the other extreme, institutional buildings receive very little explicit attention as infrastructure, and building research on the whole receives very limited funding. Some private sector spending on infrastructure research does occur, most notably through industry groups such as the Gas Research Institute (GRI) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and, on smaller scales, the research foundations established by professional and trade groups such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Public Works Association (APWA), and American Water Works Association (AWWA). The NSF provides a relatively small share of the total national spending on infrastructure research, concentrated on the nation's colleges and universities. However, the NSF is unique in its support of the knowledge base of engineering and science intended to foster technological innovation throughout the nation's economy. The NSF's independence and freedom from association with any particular infrastructure mode or interest group allows the agency's spending to be directed in a neutral and non-proprietary manner that offers opportunity for infrastructure innovation. This innovation occurs when industry or government apply the results of research. NICHE OPPORTUNITIES In view of the nation's needs and the NSF's role as a research sponsor, the committee developed a research agenda focused in seven broad crosscutting niches (Chapters 3 through 9). These niches are essentially clusters of common science and technology issues that researchers may study both as areas for general expansion of scientific knowledge (e.g., in mathematics,
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research economics, materials sciences, computer sciences) and as problems to be solved for individual infrastructure modes: systems life-cycle management, including plant or network operations, asset deployment, maintenance practices, system performance assessment and control, management, renewal decisions, quality of life and environmental management, throughout all stages of the life cycle from initial materials production to final facility demolition and waste disposal (Chapter 3); analysis and decision tools, for planning and design, needs assessment, dealing with capacity issues (Chapter 4); information management, including data collection, storage, assessment, and retrieval in forms that support decision making (Chapter 5); condition assessment and monitoring technology, for facilities and service performance (e.g., flow metering, effluent content) (Chapter 6); the science of materials performance and deterioration, including mechanical and chemical behavior, changes with time and use (Chapter 7); construction equipment and procedures, including construction management methodology (Chapter 8); and technology management, such as selection of treatment process or transport mode, bases for decision making, and environmental or social consequences (Chapter 9). Within each of these seven niche areas are many researchable topics. The committee selected example topic areas (see Table 1) that seem highly likely to offer solid payoffs (i.e., research results that can be put into practice to yield identifiable benefits). However, many other worthy topics might be proposed by infrastructure researchers. Research is an exploration that often leads in unforeseen directions. The NSF should continue to support research less directly targeted on specific immediate applications. RESEARCH LEADING TO INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT The topics and typical research questions comprising this agenda are intended as guidance to the NSF and the research community, but should not constrain the range or focus of specific programs and proposals. Allowance should always be made for new ideas and serendipitous results. Monitoring and evaluation of results coming from ongoing research should be a cornerstone of the NSF infrastructure research program (Chapter 10). In the past, the NSF's spending has been allocated and administered primarily along disciplinary lines, matched to the structure of academic institutions that are the NSF's primary grant recipients. However, from
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research time to time, special programs have encouraged collaboration across academic disciplinary boundaries or addressed needs not easily placed within traditional organizational structures, such as research centers focused on earthquake engineering, portland cement technology, and large-scale structures. Both centers of concentrated effort and the work of individual researchers can contribute to achieving a high likelihood of payoffs from infrastructure research. Infrastructure is largely a local matter, and diversity of effort is needed to match the diversity of local conditions and demands that infrastructure must serve. However, partnerships of researchers and research users can provide the crucial linkage for moving research results into practice. Such partnerships may involve either individual researchers or centers of focused research efforts. Cross-cutting infrastructure research may be based at academic institutions, but could as well draw on the resources of government laboratories now being directed toward commercial activity and civilian concerns. NSF-funded programs could augment activities established under other government programs. Municipal and state governments should be partners in this research as well, to assure that research results can be tested in practice. Regardless of the institutional setting within which the NSF-sponsored infrastructure research is undertaken, a single, unified program announcement, spanning all areas of infrastructure research, will best convey the cross-cutting philosophy embodied in the committee's agenda. Investment in infrastructure research is well justified by valuable benefits to be gained: greater durability and enhanced performance for the physical infrastructure, the training of a new generation of infrastructure professionals, environmental protection, greater economic productivity, and improved quality of life for everyone who uses the infrastructure. Innovation and infrastructure improvement are achieved through research only if results are put into practice. Research partnerships, involving municipal government, the private sector, and academic researchers in the quest for cross-cutting new knowledge and technology, will foster applications and build confidence in the methods and value of research. The essence of this value is reflected in words used by President John F. Kennedy and his brothers: "Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream of things that never were, and say, 'Why not?'" Infrastructure research should be an effort to dream of improvements and find ways to make them happen.
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research TABLE 1 Infrastructure Research Niches and Suggested Topic Areas SYSTEMS LIFE-CYCLE MANAGEMENT (Chapter 3) INFRASTRUCTURE DEMAND AND SERVICE LIFE MANAGEMENT • Issues of Public Goods Demand, Prices, and Costs • Managing Derived Demand • Infrastructure as a Life-Cycle Production Process • Assessing Consequences of Materials Innovation TOTAL SYSTEM INVENTORY, MONITORING, AND MANAGEMENT • Analytical Inventories of Infrastructure Systems • Statistical Analyses and Benchmarking of Infrastructure • Deviations-Detection Systems for Public Health and Safety • Quicker Response Infrastructure Management • Infrastructure Junction Points and Common-Use Corridors • Private and Public Interface in Infrastructure STANDARDS, REGULATIONS, AND OTHER EXTERNAL INFLUENCES ANALYSIS AND DECISION TOOLS (Chapter 4) SYSTEMS MODELS • Ex Post Analysis of Planning and Design Methods • Demand/Capacity Analysis FASTER INTEGRATION OF NEW TECHNOLOGY INTO DESIGN PRACTICE ANTICIPATING CONSEQUENCES OF CATASTROPHIC EVENTS • Construction Effects on Lifeline Systems • Emergency Infrastructure Operations Procedures INFORMATION MANAGEMENT (Chapter 5) ADVANCED DATA ACQUISITION AND MANAGEMENT METHODS • Remote Satellite Imagery • Improved Use of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Technology (SCADA) NETWORK ANALYSIS METHODS • Aggregation and Disaggregation Methods • Intermodal Interactions EDUCATION FOR INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGEMENT • Using Information Highways • Uses of Multi-Media CONDITION ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING TECHNOLOGY (Chapter 6) NONDISRUPTIVE, NONDESTRUCTIVE, CONDITION-MONITORING TECHNIQUES • Structural Assessment • Site Characterization SYSTEM-WIDE CONDITION ASSESSMENT ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AND MANAGEMENT OF RESIDUALS • Chemical Grouting • Management of Infrastructure Waste and Residuals
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research SCIENCE OF MATERIALS PERFORMANCE AND DETERIORATION (Chapter 7) HIGH-PERFORMANCE MATERIALS • Polymers • Geosynthetics • Other High-Performance Material Applications CHARACTERIZATION OF DAMAGE, DETERIORATION, AND AGING • Limit States and Failure Criteria • Time-Dependent Deformation and Strength • Cost-Effectiveness Assessment CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT AND PROCEDURES (Chapter 8) HIGH-PERFORMANCE CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES • Improved Information Exchange • Off-Site Pre-Fabrication • Resource Scheduling CONSTRUCTION WASTE DISPOSAL • Dredge Spoil • Characterization and Assessment of Contaminated Sites • Dry Construction Waste UNDERGROUND CONSTRUCTION • Automated Tunneling • Trenchless Technology • Hazards Mitigation • Construction Effects on Adjacent Facilities CONSTRUCTION SAFETY REHABILITATION AND RETROFIT • System Isolation • Access to Degraded Segments DECOMMISSIONING • Temporary Facilities • Network Devolution PROCUREMENT AND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES • Contracting Practices • Project Management Tools TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT (Chapter 9) ACHIEVING HIGH PERFORMANCE • Defining and Measuring Performance • Incorporating "Externalities" • Emergency Procedures TECHNOLOGY ADAPTATION TO INFRASTRUCTURE • Technology Compatibility Assessment • Analysis of Technology Markets INSTITUTIONAL OBSTACLES TO INNOVATION • Criteria and Standards • Impact of Procurement Methods • Performance/Cost Trade-Offs Under Uncertainty RESEARCH-TO-INNOVATION PROCESS
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research FAILURE OF SCHOHARIE CREEK BRIDGE, NEW YORK Schoharie Creek Bridge failed in 1987 due to undermining of the shallow foundations of its piers by a near-record spring flood. Over the bridge's 33-year life, the originally meager rip rap protection of the piers was gradually dispersed. No effective periodic assessment was made to warn of the deterioration of the rip rap, on the basis of which remedial measures could have been taken. Current condition assessment, using both visual and mechanical nondestructive evaluation methods, are meant to provide data for deciding on effective maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement actions. Research on assessment methods could enhance timelines and availability of information for decision making.
Representative terms from entire chapter: