Resilient Infrastructure Systems

A shape-memory-alloy brace
Landslide-generated tsunami experiments
Concrete shearing
Damage in Japan after the 2011 tsunami
Reinforced concrete structure designed for testing earthquake retrofits.

In late December 2004, the most-devastating tsunami in recorded history swept ashore in Sumatra, Indonesia, wiping entire communities off the map. Across the Indian Ocean in Somalia, the same wave inundated the coastline hours later. The eventual death toll? A quarter of a million people in 11 countries. Millions more were left without homes. And the United Nations pegged the cost to rebuild north of $12 billion.

A few months later, Hurricane Katrina surged into the Gulf of Mexico and grew to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (this, after scraping across the Florida peninsula as a weak Category 1). The wind and storm surge crippled the port city of New Orleans, where levies were unable to hold back Lake Pontchartrain. Eighty percent of the city flooded. Across the Gulf Coast, 1,200 people died from the storm. The cost of damage? A staggering $108 billion, making it the costliest hurricane ever to hit the United States.

In 2010, an earthquake in the Caribbean rattled the island nation of Haiti. Buildings crumbled as though made of paper. All told, at least 220,000 people died — maybe more. And the United Nations put the cost, in terms of physical damage and economic impact, at $7.8 billion. Taking into account Haiti’s yearly economic output, that ranks the earthquake as the most costly disaster a country has ever suffered.

Some of these events, we can see coming. Hurricane forecasting has greatly improved in recent decades, for instance. But with earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, tornadoes — much work remains to better understand and predict the events and their consequences. In either case, how to harden our built environment to withstand nature’s fury or at least minimize the resulting human impacts remains a key objective.

Man-made disasters like war are another matter entirely, but their consequences are strikingly similar, and they pose the same kinds of engineering challenges: how and where do we rebuild? How do we design infrastructure and human systems that can revive a functioning society once the originating event has passed?

In the 21st century, our world faces escalating economic and human devastation from all types of disasters, but CEEatGT researchers are focused on key questions that will help our communities become more resilient in the face of these costs:

We need to improve the resilience of our infrastructure and create smarter infrastructure systems to protect vital lifelines that help us recover after a disaster.

We need to understand our interdependent infrastructure systems and how those systems react to cascading hazards, not just a single event.

We need to develop systems that pinpoint the damage to our built environment, both to identify key areas of need in the immediate aftermath and to help us plan for future events.

We need to better predict nature’s fury and forecast the effect on our societies, which includes improving our approach to collecting data before, during and after an event.

We need to understand the human psychology and response to all forms of disasters, including why people behaved as they did before an event and why they made rebuilding and recovery decisions afterward.

We need to harness — and create — new sources of data while innovating our analysis of that data to enhance our resilience.

And we must consider sustainability as we enhance the resilience of our communities, conserving energy and resources and protecting the natural environment.

EXAMPLE PROJECTS
Alternative Cementitious Materials for Development of the Next Generation of Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure – Researchers are performing a comprehensive and systematic investigation of novel alternative cementitious materials (ACMs) for applications in sustainable transportation infrastructure. These cements include calcium aluminate, calcium sulfoaluminate, calcium sulfoaluminate belite, magnesium phosphate, and alkali-activated and carbonate-binder systems that provide potential advantages over traditional portland cement through reductions in embodied energy and greenhouse gases, as well as enhanced performance, which contributes to sustainability. The research includes evaluation of early-age and long-term material properties, in addition to multiscale durability investigations. The research team aims to provide guidance for recommended test methods and, where relevant, test limits for acceptance of ACMs for transportation infrastructure, including highway structures and rigid pavements, as well as preliminary specifications for use.
Sponsor: Federal Highway Administration
Principal Investigator: Kimberly Kurtis
 
Assessment of High Early Strength Limestone Blended Cement for Next Generation Transportation Structures – This research effort is aimed at evaluating the effects of increasing ground limestone addition rates and in particular high fineness blended cements developed for high early strength in precast concrete construction. Assessment of key material properties (e.g., setting time, strength development, shrinkage, creep, permeability) relevant to the construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation structures will be the focus. Results will be used to better understand the implications of changes in cement compositions and to provide guidance of how these changes can or should be accommodated in state and federal specifications for precast concrete elements intended for transportation structures.
Sponsor: National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management
Principal Investigator: Kimberly Kurtis
 
CAREER: Decentralized Monitoring and Control for Large-Scale Smart Structures with Wireless and Mobile Sensor Networks – The research objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award is to discover a series of decentralized substructure-based monitoring and control approaches using wireless and mobile sensor networks.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Yang Wang
 
CAREER: Multiphysics Damage and Healing of Rocks for Performance Enhancement of Geo-Storage Systems – A Bottom-Up Research and Education Approach – This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant will enhance engineers' understanding of the formation and healing of rock fractures as it pertains to underground energy and waste storage systems, while providing undergraduate students from a diverse background with both research and international collaboration experiences.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Chloe Arson
 
CAREER: Role of Symmetry in the Properties of Nanostructures: A First Principles Approach – This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program will develop an inexpensive high-fidelity computational framework for the accelerated discovery of nanostructures with unprecedented properties that can be tailored to technological applications.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Phanish Suryanarayana
 
EFRI-RESIN: Sustainable Infrastructures for Energy and Water Supply (SINEWS) – The goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the sustainability and resilience of the water and energy systems, and to offer solutions that span infrastructure design, management of the physical environment, and socioeconomic policy.
RESIN Supplement: Catalyzing New International Collaboration on Sustainable and Resilient Urban Infrastructure with Chinese Partners
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: John Crittenden
 
ERC: Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics – This National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center explores what nature can teach us about the way we practice geotechnical engineer. The discoveries researchers make could mean significant improvements in how we clean up environmental contamination, harden structures against natural and man-made disasters, make infrastructure construction more efficient, or improve the effectiveness of natural resource recovery operations.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Co-Principal Investigator: David Frost
 
Hydraulically Controlled Tensile Testing of Ultra High Performance Concrete for High-Rate Applications
Sponsor: U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research Program
Principal Investigator: Lauren Stewart
 
Impact of LRFD Seismic Bridge Design for Georgia – The project objective is to conduct a thorough review of the Georgia Department of Transportation load and resistance factor design (LRFD) policies regarding seismic design and related design programs, and make recommendations for improving the policies and design procedures.
Sponsor: Georgia Department of Transportation
Principal Investigator: Reginald DesRoches
Co-Principal Investigator: Iris Tien
 
Innovative Seismic Retrofits for Resilient and Sustainable Reinforced-Concrete Buildings – The goal of this proposed project is to validate, via innovative large-scale field testing, a new class of retrofits for reinforced concrete buildings.  Five retrofit measures will be investigated to achieve this goal, consisting of novel bracing systems, beam-column connection elements, and/or columns wraps. The project brings together a diverse group of experts from civil engineering, materials science, sensing and damage detection, risk analysis, and seismic design.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Reginald DesRoches
Co-Principal Investigator: Yang Wang
 
Load and Resistance Factor Design Specifications for Steel Box Sections – Evaluation and synthesis of fundamental limit states responses of steel box section members and development of unified AASHTO Load and Resistance Factor Design provisions for these member types.
Sponsor: Federal Highway Administration
Principal Investigator: Donald White
 
Multi-Physics Coupled Wireless Antenna Sensor for Structural Health Monitoring – An innovative, battery-free wireless antenna sensor to achieve high-fidelity strain/crack sensing. Highly inter-disciplinary multi-physics modeling, simulation, and experiments with coupled electromagnetics and mechanics.
Sponsor: Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Research Program
Principal Investigator: Yang Wang
 
Multi-Scale Modeling Framework for the Assessment and Control of Resilient Interdependent Critical Infrastructure Systems – This project will create a novel modeling framework to assess and control interdependent critical infrastructure systems (ICIs). Infrastructure systems are critical to the functioning of our society, and the services they deliver form the backbone of the health, safety, and security of our nation. These systems are complex, comprised of many interdependent components. Further, these systems are interdependent, with the performance of one system dependent on the performance of one or more of the others. This leaves ICIs vulnerable to a variety of hazards, both natural and manmade. This project will study how to improve the resilience of these systems, with the recognition that achieving resilience will be a shared responsibility among stakeholders.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Iris Tien
 
Photocatalytic NOx Oxidation & Ion Exchange: New Strategies Toward Functional Corrosion Resistant Concrete Infrastructure – Reinforced concrete structures exposed to sea water or de-icing salts are susceptible to the corrosion of embedded steel due to the ingress of chloride ions. Such corrosion results in deterioration, reduces the service life of structures, and poses a burden to the national economy. Despite extensive efforts, our current methods of corrosion protection remain either too expensive or unable to prevent corrosion actions. This research develops a new strategy that utilizes visible light to decompose air pollutants into chemical agents that can suppress steel corrosion in concrete structures. Such environmentally sustainable solutions are critical to maintain large, widespread and durable infrastructure — a critical driver of economic growth.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Kimberly Kurtis
 
Regional Industrial Structure, Economic Resilience and Energy Consumption: Comparative Evaluation, Historical Analysis and Pathway towards a More Sustainable Economy – Understanding of how regional economic activities and energy use interact with each other is incomplete. We need to better understand these interactions to be able to develop a more sustainable economy. The project will comprehensively evaluate the economic impact and the rebound effect of increased energy efficiency (e.g., energy use for lighting has increased with every increase in lighting efficiency) by introducing the concept of structural adjustment cost (SAC) into the computable general equilibrium CGE model. The study will also investigate how the impact of an energy efficiency shock diffuses through the entire economic system accounting for industry interaction and compare the heterogeneous impact of the same shock on states with different resilience rankings.
SEES: Interactions of Food Systems with Water and Energy Systems Supplement (FEW): Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications of a Nutrient Grid – The project is developing a systems dynamics model of complex urban infrastructure systems, then using it to quantify the resilience of urban infrastructure systems for each of four urban development strategies independently and in combination: 1) low impact development, 2) combined cooling, heating, and power systems, 3) electrification of transportation, and 4) urban farming.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Co-Principal Investigator: John Crittenden
 
Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Processes and Systems: Participatory Modeling of Complex Urban Infrastructure Systems (Model Urban SysTems) – This project is designed to develop the theory that infrastructure systems, with their many interdependencies and complex adaptations, have many similarities to ecological systems. Insights will be useful in the future development of tools and methods for design and evaluation of urban infrastructure systems and their resilience under stresses such as climate change, urban growth patterns and extreme weather events.
Subproject: Assess community resilience from mixed-use, transit-oriented development (TOD) with innovative technologies for water-energy-transportation (WET) infrastructure systems
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: John Crittenden
 
Risk Informed Decision Making for Maintenance of Deteriorating Distribution Poles Under Extreme Wind Hazard – This work will advance the state-of-the-knowledge and practice in cost-effective maintenance of distribution poles by developing a risk-informed decision making framework for maintenance of the poles. This framework uses fragility analysis techniques to estimate the conditional probability of failure of various species and classes of distribution poles given the intensity measure of the extreme winds.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator: Reginald DesRoches
 
Simulation Laboratory for Techniques for Naval Shock Qualification
Sponsor: U.S. Navy via ROI Defense Associates
Principal Investigator: Lauren Stewart
 
SRN: Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Health and Livable Cities – This National Science Foundation Sustainability Research Network is working to reimagine infrastructure — energy grids, road networks, green spaces, and food and water systems — to create cities that are highly functional, that promote the health of residents and the environment, and that have the intangible “vibe” that makes them desirable places to live and work.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Co-Principal Investigator: Armistead Russell
 
U.S.-China: Systems-Based Approaches for Sustainable Steel Manufacturing – This U.S.-China project will create a systems-based approach to reducing environmental impacts of manufacturing. The approach will be centered on design and operation of eco-industrial parks (EIPs). The methods to be developed focus on systems-based modeling and analysis in order to understand and manage the complexity of sustainable manufacturing.
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Co-Principal Investigator: John Crittenden

PEOPLE

Baabak Ashuri
Associate Professor
John Crittenden
Director, Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Hightower Chair...
Reginald DesRoches
Karen and John Huff School Chair and Professor
Hermann M. Fritz
Associate Professor
J. David Frost
Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham Professor & Group Coordinator
Laurie Anne Garrow
Associate Professor
T. Russell Gentry
Adjunct Associate Professor
Barry Goodno
Professor
Kimberly E. Kurtis, FACI, FACerS
Professor and Associate Dean
Paul W. Mayne
Professor
Lauren Stewart
Assistant Professor
John E. Taylor
Frederick Law Olmsted Professor
Iris Tien
Assistant Professor
Yang Wang
Associate Professor
Jingfeng Wang
Associate Professor
Donald W. White
Professor & Group Coordinator