Updated: Apr 5, 2022
Why is the conversation about Technology for Infrastructure usually so narrow in focus?
The Time Is Now: How Technology Can Optimize America’s Infrastructure Opportunity
When Focusing On Infrastructure, Don't Forget The Critical Role Of Technology
I tend to always get thrown off by articles like these (above).
Without fail, I will happily dive into headlines like these thinking that it will actually talk about technologies and solutions that creative people are building into the infrastructure for the future to make it more resilient, more sustainable and more human.
But instead, time and again, I’m treated to another few articles that wax lyrical about digital delivery of infrastructure, i.e. the use of more advanced digital to design & construct infrastructure projects… save time, save money, address stakeholders etc.
I’ve been involved in major infrastructure projects where we deployed 3D modeling and advanced database tools to enhance the delivery process. The first of these was more than 20 years ago. It might have been ahead of its time then but when we deployed better versions of these tools in current projects 20 years later, I honestly couldn’t tell if we have actually gotten that much better at it. Sure, we are more comfortable with panning, zooming and spinning around the 3D model container file today and we are more savvy using this to execute design using global expertise & resources.
But did it save the infrastructure a ton of money from more efficient design? Hardly. The number of things influencing that outcome and the shifting trends in infrastructure development, greatly overwhelm the impact of just using better design tools. Changing owner & stakeholder needs is a big one. Trying to achieve multiple functions with the same investment is almost a norm. The human collaboration that has to happen before we even put designs into the model is inevitable.
What it does do, without a doubt, is improve the design process and help it keep up with the crucial trends described before. It’s really designed to improve the delivery process and save money there, rather than for the infrastructure. When we think about how technology can improve the infrastructure being developed, I think we need to break out of just improving the front-end delivery process, and step into the future to understand how the infrastructure will serve its owners, its operators and its people… and let that drive our use of technology for infrastructure.