Future-ready infrastructure - i.e., infrastructure designed and managed to well accommodate more than one possible future scenario (e.g. resilient, adaptable and responding infrastrcuture) - are a promising solution for minimizing the economic, environmental and social risk associated to the long-term performance of assets operating under deeply uncertain contextual conditions. However, the effort of building future-ready infrastructure is only justifiable when the benefit (i.e., the risk reduction) overcomes the investment needed. Since the benefit of future-ready solutions depends on numerous variable conditions, these need to be adequately modeled and simulated in order to optimize decisions regarding their design and management.
In the continuous effort of enabling and promoting the optimal use of future-ready design and management solutions, the Laboratory for Future-Ready Infrastructure (FuRI Lab) conducts cutting edge research that builds on the opportunity offered by the unprecedented wealth of data, advanced simulation capabilities, sensing and automation technologies, and 4D design and visualization tools, available today, to optimize decisions on infrastructure design and management. This includes works on the following 4 main research area:
- Infrastructure investment optimization
Uncertainty around the frequency and the magnitude of future hazardous events (i.e., both natural hazards such as pandemics, earthquakes, flooding and landslides, and man-made hazards, such as terrorist attacks), makes it crucial for infrastructure managers to estimate the ability of assets to absorb and recover from sudden and traumatic changes in environmental conditions. The research interests of the FuRI Lab in this area include:
- Resilience estimates for transport corridors (i.e., road and railway networks) to both natural and man-made hazards. Reference publications: Martani et al., 2020, under review; Adey et al., 2020, under review; Burkhalter et al., 2020, under review; ; Adey et al., 2020a; Adey et al., 2020b; Kielhauser et al., 2020; Colombo, 2020; Neuenschwander, 2019.
- Resilience estimates for buildings and building portfolios (i.e., schools), to natural hazards (i.e., earthquakes and flooding). Reference publications: Adey et al., 2019b; Galli, 2018.
- Risk assessment and risk-reducing measures for transport corridors. Reference publications: Martani et al., 2020; Adey et al., 2019; Adey et al., 2018a; Adey et al., 2018b; Papathanasiou et al., 2018; Mizutani et al., 2017; Martani et al., 2017b; Kielhauser et al., 2017; Burkhalter et al., 2016; Martani et al., 2016b; Papathanasiou et al., 2016b; Papathanasiou et al., 2016; Burkhalter, 2016; Küffer, 2016.
- Risk assessment and risk-reducing measures for the built environment. Reference publications: Martani, 2015; Martani et al., 2013a; Martani et al., 2013b; Martani, 2011; Martani, 2010.
The unprecedented number of changes in societal preferences, technological capabilities and environmental conditions that our society is undergoing, presents great uncertainty around the needs that will have to be addressed in the future. Adaptable (or flexible) infrastructure, i.e., assets designed to be easily modifiable to cope with a changed set of needs, can help to minimize the risk of future uncertainty by postponing critical decisions to a later moment when more information is available. The research interests of the FuRI Lab in this area include the development of:
- Flexible transport corridors and parking garages to cope with the uncertainty of future mobility (e.g., the spread of electric and autonomous vehicles). Reference publications: Elvarsson et al., 2020; Eberle, 2020; Schumacher, 2020; Sutter, 2020; Studer, 2019; Fiorot, 2019; Kremer, 2019; Eberle and Hofmann, 2019; Elvarsson, 2018; Duss, 2018; Schärer, 2018.
- Flexible hospitals and clinics, to cope with the uncertainty of the quantity and type of medical treatment to be provided. Reference publications: Esders et al., 2019.
- Flexible integration of renewable energy systems into new buildings, to cope with the uncertainty of the price and demand for energy and technological evolution. Reference publications: Martani et al., 2014; Martani et al., 2016.
- Flexible investments in real estate portfolios to cope with the uncertainty of future demand. Reference publications: Fiorot, 2020; Calen, 2020; Schärer, 2019; Martani et al., 2018; Leontaris, 2018; Cattarinussi, 2016.
The constant variation in environmental conditions (e.g., rate of use of spaces, lighting and temperature conditions) exposes the performance of the built environment to fluctuations and, in extreme cases, even shocks. To minimize the risk on the performance of the built environment, a decisive contribution is offered by the responsive infrastructure and construction, i.e., IoT-supported self-adapting assets able to sense the environmental conditions, deduce the required changes and adapt the performance automatically. The research interests of the FuRI Lab in this area include the development of:
- New solutions for responsive buildings to adapt automatically to indoor temperature using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals-based people-tracking systems and reactive thermostats. Reference publications: Martani et al., 2012.
- New solutions for real-time monitoring and dynamic interventions setting in complex building installations. Reference publications: Rota et al., 2020.
- New solutions for responsive train stations to adapt automatically to passenger flow using RGB cameras and deep sensor-based passenger tracking and responsive gates. Reference publications: Martani et al., 2015; Martani et al., 2017.
- New solutions for responsive traffic and parking navigation systems. Reference publications: Martani, 2011. Reference projects: AIDA2.0 project.
- New sensing solutions for the built environment. Reference publications: Kumar et al., 2015; Kumar et al., 2016; Talamo et al., 2016. Reference projects: Future ENEL project.
Infrastructure investment optimization
Future-proof solutions offer the opportunity to minimize the risk of losses in service. Often though, this comes with a higher initial investment than the more myopic solutions, i.e., interventions focused on the short-term effects. It is therefore crucial for any investor to be able to estimate the risk of both the cost and benefits (i.e., the net-benefit) of alternative investment solutions, with proper consideration of the future uncertainty of needs and environmental conditions. This requires being able to consistently: (i) recognize and model uncertainty affecting the objectives, (ii) formulate alternative design approaches (including future-proof approaches, to minimize downside risks and maximize upside opportunities), (iii) simulate scenarios, and (iv) determine the optimal solution. The research interests of the FuRI Lab in this area include:
- The development and testing of a new methodology, based on the real options paradigm, to optimize the long-term investments in infrastructure and construction in the face of future uncertainty. Reference publications: Elvarsson et al., 2020; Martani et al., 2018; Martani et al., 2016.
- The delivery of courses and seminars to raise awareness about current and future investors, designers and infrastructure managers on the functioning of the real options-based simulation methods to evaluate future-proof solutions.