Information Exchange: Publications

Coordinated Renewal of Civil Infrastructure Systems for Sustainable Human Environments

Author: William Petak and Richard E. Schuler

"Arranging for the coordinated renewal and evolution of our system of civil infrastructure is a daunting task, but it is essential if we are to sustain the advanced human environments we have come to expect. Infrastructure is both the glue and the grease of modern societies. Through sanitary services, sewerage systems and water supply it enables enormous human population concentrations to exist, and the interconnecting streets, rails, pipes, wires and airports bring the necessary energy and supplies to people living there from far away. At the same time, when we add fiber, micro-wave, and satellites, human interactions and creativity are facilitated, both near and far.


Our civil infrastructure is a complex system, embodying many technologies to provide a wide variety of services arranged by a multitude of institutions and layers of government, so it is rarely thought of as a coherent whole. Yet without it, modern society as we know it would surely fail. Why then is so little public attention paid to it--unless some component does fail and creates personal inconvenience? Although a century ago, the steady stream of new infrastructure achievements from towering bridges and the electrification of the nation to sanitary streets and world wide transportation links were all viewed with wonderment and delight, today all of these services plus airports, interstate highways and the internet are increasingly taken for granted and rarely noticed, except when they’re congested and don’t work."

Date Created: November 1999; Date Posted: April 2006






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