Infrastructure is the built world around us, including the basic physical structures and organizational facilities (roads, bridge, power grid, clean water, etc.) that society needs to operate. The recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act  has brought increased attention to the current state of U.S. infrastructure, which scored a C- in ASCE’s most recent 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. Now is the time to think about what our infrastructure will look like in the future. In a new forum article in the Journal of Infrastructure Systems, author Iris Tien writes that a forward-looking approach will lead to infrastructure that is more resilient, sustainable, and equitable. 

In “Recommendations for Investing in Infrastructure at the Intersection of Resilience, Sustainability, and Equity,” Tien offers seven recommendations for how we should think about and invest in infrastructure to achieve resilience, sustainability, and equity goals. She begins with our reactive approach to infrastructure. In most cases, we have waited for problems to arise before addressing them, rather than proactively maintaining the built environment. We need to shift our focus to anticipate problems in the future before things fail. She continues by recommending planning timelines and implementing risk-based approaches during the design and decision-making process, including cyber-security risks. And encourages cross-sector activities, that will break down traditional silos and look at infrastructure as an interdependent network. Read this thought-provoking piece outlining Tien’s infrastructure investment recommendations at The abstract is below.


Infrastructure systems – including water distribution, power, communications, and transportation systems – are critical to our public health and safety, national security, and economic growth. These systems, however, are aging and subject to increasing threats from both natural disasters and targeted attacks. With the significant funds that have been proposed and recently allocated to address America’s infrastructure shortfalls, now is the time to think about what that infrastructure can and will look like for the future. Our goal should be investing in infrastructure that will result in resilient, sustainable, and equitable systems in support of communities. Resilient systems have “the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions” (White House 2013). Sustainable systems are able to “meet our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland 1985). Equitable systems “meet the needs of underserved communities through policies and programs that reduce disparities while fostering places that are healthy and vibrant” (EPA 2021). While each of these goals is important on its own, their intersection poses opportunities and challenges in how we comprehensively think about infrastructure and its interactions with people and communities. This paper provides seven recommendations for how we should think about and invest in infrastructure to achieve resilience, sustainability, and equity goals. They represent key advances over past practice to achieve the systems we want for the future. 

Read the paper in full in the ASCE Library: