Much of our world today is built around infrastructure, and these various frameworks serve as the backbone of the world’s economies. Infrastructure influences how we live, move, play, and grow. Whether talking about a reliable transportation system, buildings that offer living and working space, or energy systems that power nearly everything, a reliable, safe, and efficient infrastructure is the foundation of most communities.
Yet, many of the world’s infrastructure systems are lacking. They are either outdated and crumbling, missing essential elements, or were poorly planned from inception. As the world’s population skyrockets and many areas shift towards greater urbanization, infrastructure has become an important topic. Fortunately, advances in technology and design are providing us with more intelligent and strategic approaches to infrastructure. Here are how some of those advances are materializing now and in the near future.
How Technology Impacts Infrastructure
There is little debate that the need for major infrastructure investment worldwide is overwhelming. Global Construction 2030 estimates that worldwide construction output is going to increase by 85% over the next 15 years. Technology is going to play a role in these new construction projects in several ways. The first is by using something called Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a way to improve both project efficiency and predictability. This is important because a majority of the infrastructure projects that use BIM are showing a positive ROI, which is good news for investors.
Technology is also being used to minimize such things as construction risk and supplier delays. Beyond this, as communities are in the infrastructure planning and investigation phase, big data technology can be employed to examine many alternatives so that the right sustainable solution is ultimately chosen.
Rebuilding America the Right Way
When we speak of infrastructure improvements, many imagine some of America’s iconic systems that are either crumbling or woefully out of date. Consider the New York City subway system, Pittsburgh’s Liberty Bridge, or one of our airports built in the 1950s. It’s difficult to know where to start when many of these systems have been deemed unsafe by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the cost to repair our country’s infrastructure has been tagged at over $3.3 trillion.
America’s infrastructure problem is another area where technology can be of assistance. Asset-centric software is being utilized to not only track these projects but also to prioritize them based on critical need and availability of investment funds. A couple of examples of these tools are called TERM Lite, which uses a rating scale for infrastructure assets, and Capital Asset Inventory, which assigns ratios based on asset age and useful life.
An Infrastructure Success Story
If looking for an infrastructure success story in terms of scale and planning, it would be difficult to ignore the project currently underway in India’s industrial corridor. Considered the world’s largest infrastructure project ever planned, this venture stretches from Delhi to Mumbai and includes 24 smart cities, six airports, 23 industrial hubs, two ports, and two power plants. The connecting expressway spans 1,500 kilometers, and the entire project is being built at a cost of $100 billion. The project is being undertaken in response to the slow times that it takes to transport goods within the country and the move towards urbanization of the population. These “smart cities” within the system are being built to be both green and self-sustaining and the developers, DMIC Development Corporation, estimates that more than 25 million jobs will be created in the next seven years.
While infrastructure may not be the sexiest word in architecture and design, this often-overlooked element of our communities is the very backbone of our economies and our futures. Without it, we’d struggle to survive, and future generations wouldn’t thrive as we would like. Instead of being reactive as in the past, today’s designers are taking a proactive approach to infrastructure design, including employing both technologically advanced and sustainable elements. This winning combination can both grow with population surges and adapt to needed changes over time.