Making America’s Infrastructure “Future-Proof”

America’s roads, bridges, waterways and energy systems are worn, torn and weathered. After years of neglect, Costa Samaras says it’s time to invest in smart transportation and energy systems that can weather the storm.

“We’re entering a new world where climate conditions in the future will look very different,” said Samaras, an assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon University‘s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Here at CMU, we’re developing the research and the education initiatives necessary to advance engineering methods to figure out ways to make our infrastructure future-proof.”

Samaras’ research focuses on the intersection of America’s energy and transportation systems. He and his research group are evaluating current conditions to determine what investments need to be made to best prepare for the effects of climate change.

“We think about focused areas where we could make a difference right now,” said Samaras, also an affiliated faculty member in Carnegie Mellon’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and the College of Engineering‘s Energy Science, Technology and Policy Program. “So we’re looking at how individual power plants are vulnerable to climate change impacts, as well as how strategic roadway and other transportation networks are vulnerable — and more specifically, what can we do about it?”

Samaras said smart investments would consider how much it would cost not only to build new systems, but also to operate them over the long term. He says by making strategic investments upfront, we can help ensure that our infrastructure is efficient and resilient to climate change, which will minimize cost and maximize performance in the long run.

“It’s kind of like putting energy efficient appliances in your house,” Samaras explained. “They might cost a little bit more, but over the life of those appliances, it’s going to save you more than enough money to make up for that initial investment.”

As part of the White House Frontiers Conference, on Thursday, Oct. 13, Samaras is participating in the Panel on Educating for Climate-Smart Design.