New methods for strategic analysis of infrastructure systems are helping to plan the billions of investment that will be needed to sustain society’s lifelines.
Infrastructure, including energy, transportation, water, waste and digital communications, is essential for human well-being and economic productivity (1). Indeed in the current economic climate governments worldwide are increasingly looking to investments in infrastructure for short-term stimulus and to enhance longer-term economic competitiveness. In many ways, infrastructure defines the boundaries of national economic productivity, and is an often-cited key ingredient for a nation’s economic competitiveness (2). For example, the World Economic Forum lists infrastructure as the second ‘pillar’ in its Global Competitiveness Index (3). Infrastructure networks are also one of mankind’s most visible impacts on the environment. As infrastructure is largely made up of longlived assets with high up-front costs, the wrong decisions during planning and design can ‘locked in’ unsustainable patterns of development. To steer towards more sustainable infrastructure systems requires a transformation in both thinking and methodology.