Infrastructure Resilience

Our experiences of social-environmental shifts like climate change and global pandemics are mediated by the often invisible flows of resources like water, energy, and food to our cities. These flows arrive at our homes through interdependent social, physical, and cyber infrastructure. While this may invoke an image of colossal transportation projects, elaborate electric grids, or simply water at the kitchen tap, infrastructure today is best understood as a series of interdependent human, built, and natural systems. Understanding resilience in these systems will be crucial for designers and planners in the face of a changing climate and rapid urbanization.

Resilience engineering

Resilience is a tricky concept to define. It's particularly difficult in social-ecological-technological systems like infrastructure. Do we use definitions from Buzz Holling's school of social-ecological resilience? Ideas more akin to Sara Meerow's urban resilience? What about engineering resilience from risk studies? In this project, we attempted to understand how these frameworks overlapped for new insights in designed systems like infrastructure.

Publication: Yu, D. J., Schoon, M. L., Hawes, J. K., Lee, S., Park, J., Rao, P. S. C., Siebeneck, L. K., & Ukkusuri, S. V. (2020). Toward General Principles for Resilience Engineering. Risk Analysis, risa.13494.

Left: A picture of transportation infrastructure outside Geneva, Switzerland - taken by JH

Recovering from drinking water disasters

My undergraduate research with Dr. Andy Whelton at Purdue focused on municipal water system recovery from disasters. We built miniature plumbing loops to simulate pipe aging, baked chlorinated water in PEX pipes, and had volunteers sniff lots of water samples to detect volatile chemicals from plastic pipes.

This work culminated in a project assessing how to decontaminate water heaters after houses are exposed to a drinking water contaminant. We flushed dozens of water heaters to determine how long chemicals would remain in the systems and measured flow rates in houses around West Lafayette, IN to determine the most effective routes for getting contaminated water out of a home. This work was ultimately published in the Journal of the American Water Works Association:

Hawes, J. K., Conkling, E. N., Casteloes, K. S., Brazeau, R. H., Salehi, M., & Whelton, A. J. (2017). Predicting contaminated water removal from residential water heaters under various flushing scenarios. Journal - American Water Works Association, 109(8), E332–E342.

Right, top: Me, sampling water from our laboratory setup! Photo credit - Purdue EEE and the Lilly Foundation

Right, bottom: Water heater setups in a typical house - produced by JH, copyright AWWA