Johns Hopkins University
New York, New York
America’s infrastructure, which includes highways, bridges, mass transit, fresh water supply, wastewater treatment, telecommunications, energy, dams, and schools to name just some of its components, is often taken for granted and overlooked until something goes wrong. As we have learned in the recent past, the importance of these “invisible systems” becomes immediately apparent when they are not working. Natural and man-made disasters in the last decade have highlighted the vulnerability of our nation’s interdependent infrastructure systems.
Power outages darkened the entire northeastern region in 2003.
Communication lines have often been disrupted preventing e-mail, cell phone, and telephone transmissions.
An interstate highway bridge, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, collapsed and disrupted traffic patterns and limited access.
In New York City, steam pipes exploded when an aging power supply system failed, disrupting transportation and energy distribution.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused levees to collapse in New Orleans and flooded entire neighborhoods and communities in the city and along the Gulf Coast.
The interconnectedness of infrastructure systems increases their susceptibility to failures and compounds recovery efforts. For example, an earthquake may
damage buildings, bridges, and roadways, which may hamper emergency access to fires caused by ruptured gas lines. In addition, these fires cannot be extinguished if the transmission lines that provide power to the local water pumping station are down.
The presentations in this technical session will focus on research efforts to improve the long-term resiliency and sustainability of critical infrastructure systems, which we so often take for granted. This research includes investigating ways to develop systems that can withstand natural disasters and/or return to full operation soon after a catastrophe occurs. Similarly, techniques, such as lifecycle assessments, are being studied to create a more sustainable infrastructure by reducing energy requirements, using recycled materials, and/or making better decisions.
In the first presentation, Kristina Swallow presents an overview of the state of our nation’s infrastructure as outlined in the American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card, highlights possible causes of infrastructure deterioration, and proposes possible solutions. The second speaker, Stephanie Chang, focuses on research to assess the vulnerability of urban infrastructure systems in areas susceptible to natural disasters with the goal of maximizing preparations and reallocating resources to make recovery and repair operations more efficient. Arpad Horvath, the final speaker, focuses on environmental life-cycle assessment modeling of infrastructure systems and the implications, for the environment and energy use, of using different designs and materials.