For centuries, civil engineers have been responsible for building infrastructure that serves communities in a variety of ways. Structures’ designs have been largely driven by societal needs and technological progression at the time they were built.

In the 21st century, the threat of environmental and other complex hazards requires civil engineers to build systems that are smarter, more sustainable, and more resilient than ever before. Advanced technologies and innovations present a unique opportunity to design a new generation of smart infrastructure.

In this ASCE Interchange Live, Mariantonieta Gutierrez Soto, assistant professor of engineering design at Penn State University and director of DREAM structures lab, joins ASCE for a discussion on developing intelligent infrastructure for the future.

“Because we’re looking at natural disasters or extreme events, we want to be able to have our buildings detect information from the environment. And to detect things, we need sensors or some way of capturing information or what is happening surrounding you – changes in temperature, wind loading, or an earthquake,” Gutierrez Soto said.

While it is important to capture this data for monitoring a system’s health and maintenance, smart structures can go one step further.
At the DREAM structures lab, “we instrument our buildings with protective devices so they can adapt, and we find ways for that to happen,” Gutierrez Soto said.

She also highlights the roles of artificial intelligence, game theory, biomimicry, and other key factors in smart infrastructure design.

The forward-thinking approach of DREAM structures research aligns with ASCE’s Future World Vision. The project identifies six key trends driving the future built environment. One of these trends is smart cities, where intelligent technology will have a profound influence both in systems and for personal use.

Read more about the DREAM structures research lab.

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