No part of the planet is untouched by the impact of the more than seven billion human inhabitants. Collectively, we face pressing challenges such as extreme weather from climate change, growing urbanization, and resource scarcity. These challenges make cities and ecosystems more vulnerable. They trigger an urgent call to develop a sustainable, healthy, and just world. Human ingenuity and collaboration across the scientific, business, and education communities have led to solutions to ensure that society can mitigate and respond to these challenges.
More recently, the concept of resilience has become integrated into thinking about sustainable systems and infrastructure. Creating resilient, sustainable infrastructure will require coordination across all levels of government and should engage the private sector, academia, and planning agencies. Collectively these institutions should ensure that resilience planning is collaborative and inclusive, stimulates investment, and drives research.
Sustainable Infrastructure will include technical solutions, such as predictive tools that can be used to better anticipate storms, advanced metering that pinpoint outages in real time, and social media as an emerging tool for sharing data and widespread communication. For long-term success, a broad definition of infrastructure be must used to include not only the built environment and physical solutions, but also the social, natural, and cyber dimensions.
Built – The roads, bridges, public transit, and utilities we rely upon. More than $6 trillion annually for the next 15 years will need to be invested internationally to keep pace with growing demands for sustainable infrastructure. While this estimate anticipate building new infrastructure that keeps pace with higher standards of resilience, it does not include unanticipated impacts that may arise from extreme weather events.
Natural – The healthy ecosystems that sustain crucial services to sustain life, such as water, air, and soil. It includes forests, oceans, coral reefs, grasslands, mangroves, rivers and lakes to name a few. Nature has quantifiable and unquantifiable values to ecosystems, humans and the planet.
Social – The interdependent mix of facilities, places, spaces, programs, projects, services and networks that maintain and improve the standard of living and quality of life in a community. Social Infrastructure typically includes assets that accommodate social services. Examples include government, public security and safety, public health, schools, universities, hospitals, prisons and community housing.
Cyber – Includes research environments that support advanced data acquisition, storage, management, integration, mining, visualization and other computing and information processing services. These are distributed over the internet, beyond the scope of a single institution. In science, cyber infrastructure is viewed as the technological and sociological solution to the problem of efficiently connecting laboratories, data, computers, and people with the goal of enabling derivation of novel scientific theories and knowledge.