Resilience session comment piece: Engineering Resilient Infrastructure by Professor Robert Mair

Engineering Resilient Infrastructure

Robert MairHigh-quality infrastructure is essential for supporting economic growth and productivity. It attracts globally-mobile businesses and promotes social well-being. Modern construction and infrastructure must be robust, resilient and adaptable to changing patterns – particularly natural disasters and climate change. It also needs to be optimised in terms of efficiency, cost, low carbon footprint and  service quality.

Modern infrastructure can benefit enormously from the innovative use of emerging technologies in sensor and data management (e.g. fibre optics, MEMS, computer vision, power harvesting, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Wireless Sensor Networks). There are real opportunities for these new technologies to make radical changes to the construction and management of infrastructure, leading to considerably enhanced efficiencies, economies, resilience and adaptability.

Emerging technologies can be applied to advanced health monitoring of existing critical infrastructure assets to quantify and define the extent of ageing and the consequent remaining design life of infrastructure, thereby ensuring resilience and reducing the risk of failure. The latest sensor technologies can also transform the industry through a whole-life approach to achieving sustainability in construction and infrastructure in an integrated way – design and commissioning, the construction process, exploitation and use, and eventual de-commissioning.

The engineering, management, maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure requires fresh thinking to minimise use of materials, energy and labour whilst still ensuring resilience. This can only be achieved by a full understanding of the performance of the infrastructure, both during its construction and throughout its design life, through the application of innovative sensor technologies and other emerging technologies.

By Professor Robert Mair – GGCS resilience session speaker

Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cambridge

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