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OCR for page 128
Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research E SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGIES The committee and other study participants proposed a number of ideas for new infrastructure technologies, subsystems, and services that warrant exploration. These ideas, for the most part reflecting specific adaptations of technologies used in fields other than infrastructure, might qualify for inclusion in research under several of the committee's recommended major areas of emphasis. However, the committee sought to emphasize a systems approach to infrastructure and research on cross-cutting technologies, and so resolved to de-emphasize such mode-specific topics as those included in this appendix. Nevertheless, the committee recommends that R&D efforts in these areas could yield substantial payoffs as precursors to the next generation of infrastructure technology. DIGITAL CONTROLS AND "INTELLIGENT" URBAN AREAS Advances in digital-based control systems have been applied as new products offered by traditional control vendors as well as new systems for the building owner/operator community. Taken together with in-building "tenant services" being offered by facility management professionals, the package of services has been collectively described as the "intelligent building." The concepts of ''intelligence" could be extended to entire residential subdivisions, office parks (collections of commercial buildings), or to "new towns" and other large mixed-use developments. Advances in wireless communication applied to intra-building activity (e.g., cellular technology
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research within an office building) as well as within large geographic areas, energy supply and control (e.g., district zoned heating and cooling, photovoltaics), and new control technologies could alter significantly the economics of land use and buildings. Research in these areas could have influence on all infrastructure serving these "intelligent" areas. PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY PRODUCTION Research to develop commercially viable photovoltaic cells should include consideration of potential applications by small utilities or condominium associations in high-density urban areas. Integrating solar cells with roofing and glass curtainwall elements could yield economic efficiencies that cannot easily be captured by separate development of the energy source and the structures. PNEUMATIC TUBE TRANSPORT Pneumatic propulsion systems could be useful as an intra-urban and interurban delivery system for small packages (perhaps not exceeding 5 kg) that can fit into easily fabricated tubes. Documents that cannot be telecopied, medical specimens, drugs, factory parts, and consumer goods could be shipped without the uncertainties of weather or the burdens of air pollution. Existing rights-of-way, remote switching, and automated routing could allow such systems to be installed with minimum disruption and wide area coverage. SUPERCONDUCTIVITY FOR INFRASTRUCTURE APPLICATIONS Preliminary research results on superconducting materials operating at cryogenic temperatures indicate that substantial benefits can be achieved (e.g., improvements in energy efficiency, applications to new transport systems) if fabrication and operating problems can be solved. Initial applications of the technology are most likely to be in electronics of computers, medical instrumentation, and other small devices. Large-scale applications to infrastructure will pose very different problems, but the substantial benefits warrant research. AUTOMATED AIRPORT OPERATIONS Rapid and continuing growth in air transportation demand is outpacing the abilities of existing technology for baggage and cargo handling, people moving, and aircraft ground control and servicing. New technology is needed to match the larger aircraft and advance air-traffic control likely to be introduced in coming decades.
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