When you hear the word “future,” what comes to mind first?

Perhaps you think of a world like The Jetsons, Back to the Future, or Interstellar. Right now, we’re living in the digital age. But the space age we’ve been imagining may just be a lot closer than you think.

Over the last century, technology, and innovation have already begun turning what was once science-fiction into reality. Alternative energy. Autonomous vehicles. Smart city applications. For civil engineers, the future of the profession means shaping the built world we live in today and tomorrow.

In this episode of ASCE Interchange, Melodie Yashar, director of Building Design and Building Performance at ICON, discusses the future of infrastructure and the off-planet possibilities that may lie ahead.

“The more data we’re able to acquire from our built systems, the more advanced infrastructure we’re going to see in the future,” said Yashar, an expert in space architecture and advanced construction technologies.

“It’s certainly not going to happen all at once, but I believe research indicates that we are on our way – currently with NASA’s Artemis program – to realize permanent infrastructure, as well as eventually a permanent human presence, on the moon within this next decade.”

This is the exact type of forward-thinking that ASCE’s Future World Vision highlights. The project examines five plausible future worlds, including an off-planet city depicting a version of the first colony on Mars, where engineers must determine how the community will thrive. How will people access clean air, water, power, and food resources? What sustainable solutions can we implement for these systems to operate long term?

The way that infrastructure systems are integrated will require multi-sector innovation and collaboration to materialize. They will also rely on automated construction and high-tech materials, such as 3D printing. Yashar believes that the more advanced materials that are introduced, the more intelligent building systems will be. This would benefit building performance, creating an overall more sustainable and resilient built environment.

To view all Interchange episodes, visit ASCE’s YouTube channel.