The critical infrastructure systems that are the mainstay of our nation’s economy, security, and health are interdependent – for example, the water supply system of a community is dependent on the pumping stations and they, in turn, are dependent on electric supply. Cascading failures among these critical infrastructure systems can be eased, or even avoided, when the systems are resilient.
In March 2014, ASCE’s Committee on Technical Advancement (CTA) formed a Working Group to begin development of a new technical division focused on infrastructure resilience. Formally approved by the ASCE Board of Direction at its January meeting in Miami, the Infrastructure Resilience Division (IRD) merges 3 existing ASCE units that have synergistic activities in this arena – the Committee on Critical Infrastructure (CCI), the Council on Disaster Risk Management (CDRM), and the Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering (TCLEE).
The primary role of the IRD is to develop a common approach to advance the concepts of resilience in our nation’s civil infrastructure and lifeline systems, foster cross-communication and develop collaborations around the impacts of natural hazards on civil infrastructure, facilitate the development of guidelines and standards, and disseminate knowledge throughout the civil engineering community. In addition, it will actively coordinate with other ASCE entities as well as allied associations and other stakeholders on resilience concepts.
Achieving Infrastructure Resiliency
“When a hazard actually strikes a community, how do you respond, how do you recover, and how do you rebuild?” asks Craig A. Davis, Ph.D., P.E., GE, M.ASCE, chair of the new 6-member IRD executive committee and trunk line design manager for the Los Angeles (California) Department of Water and Power. “You need to be [cognizant of resilience] through this whole design process.”
“Among the things we are looking at,” says Davis, “are wastewater, portable water systems, transportation systems, solid waste management systems, liquid fuels, natural gas, inundation protection systems, information technology, electric power systems, communications systems, and the performance of building systems, and how civil engineering relates and pulls all of this together.”
“IRD will provide ASCE members with resources and tools for a comprehensive coverage of risk and safety concerns by striving for resilient infrastructures and systems,” added Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, a member of the IRD executive committee, and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Center for Technology and Systems Management in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Maryland. “For example, current practices lack the explicit consideration of recovery in system design. The IRD offers ASCE members a focal point for what we anticipate will be an increased need for addressing resilience.
“Absolute safety is unachievable without expending considerable resources. This means that failures could happen despite high reliability targets since projects are designed for finite capacities. If limiting potential failures is a design consideration, we should expect engineers to additionally design for postfailure states. IRD will lead the advancement of current planning and design practices to address not only performance and failures, but also postfailure recovery. IRD has the vision in this case to address failures beyond the reactive mode of emergency management to the deliberate design for recovery.”
What Civil Engineers Should Expect to See from the IRD
As stated in the Presidential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, the term resilience is defined as “the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.” Both Davis and Ayyub stress that the primary need for the IRD within ASCE is to develop a consensus approach to advance the concepts of resilience in our nation’s civil infrastructure and lifeline systems. In addition, the IRD will serve to actively and strategically coordinate with other ASCE entities as well as allied associations and other stakeholders who focus on resilience, such as FEMA, the NSF, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Also, the IRD will provide leadership to units internal and external to ASCE, as well as communities nationally and globally, for civil infrastructure and lifeline system engineering resilience.
Among the products that Davis and Ayyub anticipate will come out of the IRD are new codes and standards, guidelines, manuals of practice, webinars, seminars, pamphlets, and general information. The ASCE journal Natural Hazards Review will continue to be published by ASCE but now under the purview of the IRD.
Key to the functionality and organization of the IRD is the creation of 5 technical committees, which are the following:
- The Civil Infrastructure and Lifeline Systems Committee will address physical and operational hazard-related problems of civil infrastructure and lifeline systems and develop standardized performance metrics, practical applications, guides, and tools useful for each lifeline.
- The Emerging Technologies Committee will provide a forum to explore technologies and advancements in the practice that increase the resilience of civil infrastructure and lifeline systems in hazard-prone areas.
- The Risk and Resilience Measurements Committee will address how risk is used in the civil infrastructure and lifeline systems resilience context and build overarching risk-based lifeline resilience standards.
- The Disaster Response and Recovery Committee will address disaster response and recovery phases for designing resilient infrastructure.
- The Social Science, Policy, Economics, Education, and Decision (SPEED) for Community Resilience Committee will address these aspects of resilience as related to civil infrastructure and lifeline systems to support overall community resilience.
There will also be an Awards Subcommittee which will administer ASCE/IRD awards, including the C. Martin Duke Lifeline Earthquake Engineering Award and the Le Val Lund Award for Practicing Lifeline Risk Reduction. Other subcommittees under the 5 technical committees will be developed in the future as needed.
“I am very impressed with how quickly the new IRD came together to work on ASCE’s strategically important mission of resilience of infrastructure,” says John E. Durrant, P.E., F.ASCE, ASCE’s senior managing director of Engineering and Lifelong Learning. “We have seen with events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy the consequences of not renewing our critical infrastructure to make it resilient.
“What the IRD will achieve within ASCE and our membership is a uniform understanding of resilience, including the accepted procedures, design processes, and standards, so [that] when someone says that something must be resilient, a civil engineer will know what it means, and how to make it so.”
Members interested in joining any one of the IRD technical committees may submit an online committee application to apply for participation in this effort.