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NSF Awards $2.5M to Multidisciplinary Infrastructure Research Led by CEE's Crittenden

A new National Science Foundation-funded project at Georgia Tech will look at how water, energy and transportation infrastructure systems interact and where potential problems might happen. Researchers across nine schools and the Georgia Tech Research Institute are collaborating on the work, which develop a new way to holistically assess the resilience of critical urban infrastructure. (Faucet photo courtesy of Joost Nelissen via Flickr. Overpass photo courtesy of Drriss & Marrionn via Flickr.)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded funding this week to a far-reaching multidisciplinary research project at Georgia Tech that will create a new approach to engineering the resilience of critical urban infrastructure.

The $2.5 million award funds work stretching across nine schools at Tech plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute. School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor John Crittenden will lead the effort.

Using the metro Atlanta area as a test bed, the project will evaluate the idea that interconnected and decentralized infrastructure systems are more resilient than systems that are isolated and centralized.

The problem with current systems, according to the researchers, is that planners, officials and engineers tend to view water, energy and transportation systems as separate and independent. So there’s no way to evaluate how the systems interact with each other and where problems might arise.

The project will devise a four-pronged method of assessing complex urban infrastructure as a whole. Researchers will use that method to measure how the systems respond to population growth and how they respond to the impacts of climate change.

The team also will create a simulation tool to use all of that data to forecast potential effects on services to end-users and help decision-makers choose how to invest in infrastructure.

All of the methods and models developed during the project will be incorporated into curriculum at Tech, including into a program that specifically targets African American high school students. Course modules and materials will be widely distributed through NSF's Center for Sustainable Engineering.

Baabak Ashuri from the School of Building Construction, Richard Fujimoto from the School of Computational Science and Engineering, Marc Weissburg from the School of Biology and Jennifer Clark from the School of Public Policy will help Crittenden direct the three-year project. The research team also includes investigators from the Schools of City and Regional Planning, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.