Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Part 3 of 5 for the November edition of "Converging over Coffee"
How did engineering work become so much more complex? Did something fundamentally shifted? The work of engineers often results in shared infrastructure of some sort, but that definition of “shared” has significantly expanded in modern times. Three ways this has happened…
Multi-Function. Public and private use of infrastructure has intensified especially in the cities of today as spaces are increasingly shared. Infrastructure costs and the flow down impacts on thin budgets are becoming more acute. We are no longer satisfied with things that just work and are safe. We demand that our infrastructure is sustainable and perform more than just a single function. Engineering & design must be able to cater to an expanded set of functions.
Multi-Criteria. As we build infrastructure that serves multiple functions, our trusted engineering methods are still going to be critical but unlikely to be all that we need to deliver on the various goals. Addressing the problems from a wider range of disciplines require different sets of expertise, including non-engineering ones. Some of these involve more heuristic or adaptive methods, rather than deterministic science-based methods. Building sustainable infrastructure is now dependent on our ability to integrate an expanded set of methods and criteria.
Multi-Owner. Because of how important it is to be able to integrate different disciplines’ goals and methods, it has become important to bring into the tent a more diverse group of stakeholders. The more complex the infrastructure or solution is, the more likely there will be strong input from these stakeholders. They will bring their own set of desired outcomes, approaches they are familiar with, and exert a demand on available resources. What they really want is to be treated like Owners. Engineers now need to know how to work with stronger external voices for even simpler, smaller projects.
So the burning question is… why does it fall to the engineers to have a response to all these? The fact is that these multi-function, multi-criteria and multi-owner features always converge back onto engineering to take the real infrastructure work to completion. To deliver high quality engineering work, it is now impossible to ignore these fundamental shifts and the complexities they have created.