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4 Big Impacts on Infrastructure

I have long been calling for government to invest in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Not only that, but we need to do it in a way that is intelligent. We have the technology at our disposal to build infrastructure that is smart, and we need to take the steps to do so.

Here are four key things that have impacted the industry in the past several months—and some thoughts on what needs to happen next with our infrastructure.

The Need for Repair

Last March, the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) released its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. It had been four years in the making. The good news is for the first time in 20 years, our infrastructure is out of the D range. We have made some incremental progress to restore our nation’s infrastructure and that has resulted in our GPA being a C-. The bad news is a C- still isn’t all that great. Much work still needs to be done.

What’s perhaps even more challenging news is while we have made some gains, our long-term investment gap, as we all know, is still a significant financial concern for the industry. Looking at the numbers, the gap has risen from $2.2 trillion over 10 years in the last report to $2.59 trillion in the latest study, meaning a funding gap of nearly $260 billion per year. Bottomline, we are still desperately behind, looking at this past year’s report card.

I will be curious to see what the next Infrastructure Report Card has to say—which will be released in roughly three years—because much work is in the pipeline and there is a lot of good people working to raise more attention to improve the Infrastructure Report Card rating.

The Infrastructure Deal

Perhaps this goes without saying, but one of the biggest things to have impacted the industry in the past several months is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which holds big promise, but is still unfolding. Setting aside the political discussion, the five-year $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aims to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and rails; expand access to clean drinking water; ensure every American has access to high-speed internet; invest in passenger rail; build a national network of EV (electric vehicle) chargers; upgrade our power infrastructure; invest in communities; and tackle the climate crisis.

Combined with the President’s Build Back Framework, it will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years. The challenge is an influx in work is messy to say the least. We have already a worker shortage in construction, which is something we have been trying to address for years. Add to that the fact businesses across the globe are still grappling with all the disruption left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—and Omicron isn’t helping matters—and there are still real hurdles to address. Candidly, I would love to see us as an industry put a committee together to address this issue and work with each other to find more talented workers.

Candidly, as it stands now, I am not sure we as a society have what it takes to make big change happen quickly enough. We can’t just patch old problems. We need to create a cleaner and greener future for all.

Sustainable Infrastructure

I believe we need more sustainable infrastructure. We need to look at new materials. We need to find ways to consider materials that are affordable. Sustainable and resilient materials are simply too expensive. We need to reimagine the pathway to our cities, hospitals, schools, highways, tunnels, bridges, etc. When we take the time and we all start thinking like urbanists and sustainabilists, so to speak, change will occur, but we don’t have time to plan.

We need action because without it we are destroying our planet. We need to take the blinders off. It’s clear that we are not recognizing that there are clear challenges that we must work together to solve. We won’t be building the same way. It’s all about creating a new pathway into the way we all see a cleaner, healthier future for future generations. However, if we ponder too long about the future, there won’t be anything left to consider. That’s the catch 22, architects, builders, city planners, homebuyers, and construction companies are debating today.

Digital Twin Builds Our Infrastructure

The digital twin is set to transform the way construction companies build infrastructure in the years ahead. Grand View Research says the global digital-twin market is expected to grow at a rate of 42.7% from 2021 to 2028. The opportunities for the digital twin are endless.

In Singapore, a combination of digital twin, 160,000 high-resolution images, and Bentley Systems technology, in this case, produce a reality mesh for the whole country at a 0.1-meter accuracy. And it used technology to incorporate more than 24 terabytes of data covering all the public roads in Singapore. This will support nationwide sustainable infrastructure projects and the methodology will save more than $20 million and a year and four months. What’s more, it can repeat this.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Greg Bentley, CEO, Bentley Systems, for a candid, one-on-one interview on The Peggy Smedley Show, about how digital twins will be used to better infrastructure. The takeaway: digital twins will help build infrastructure of the future all across the globe.

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