Preparing for the Worst– Engineers are trying to deal with uncertainties that cannot be assessed by probability based on past occurrences. Current infrastructure is under-prepared for extreme events that may come as a surprise, for example, extreme-weather events such as Hurricane Sandy in New York and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The challenge of sustainability places greater demands on infrastructure innovations that facilitate the improvement of existing infrastructure, as well as the creation of new infrastructure to balance economic, social and environmental needs and eventually transform to a sustainable civilization.
Such a transformation is made necessary by the more complex problems of our modern world. For example, in addition to better design and performance of infrastructure in individual sectors — such as building, water supply, energy supply and transportation — at a city scale, the interdependence among those critical infrastructures also is important to the overall performance of the interdependent systems. This is why today’s engineers must focus on the resilience of infrastructure systems, not just individual components of infrastructure, to external disturbance.
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