Refurbishment and Replenishment of Aging Infrastructure for Transition into Net-zero and Resilient Future

Day 1, 4 May 2022, 1430 - 1600 IST

Session Annotation

This session will unpack the manifestation of risks and challenges of aging infrastructure in their transition to a more resilient and net-zero future. The current transition in infrastructure has created uncertainty for aging critical infrastructure – both for their current existence and adaptation to the future. The session will draw out experiences and lessons of managing and transitioning aging infrastructure.

Session Overview

Each infrastructure has a design life over which it is expected to show satisfactory performance. After the commissioning, infrastructure faces wear and tear, adverse weather, and extreme events such as cyclones or earthquakes, leads to deterioration in structural integrity, strength, durability, and operability of infrastructure, affecting overall design-life. 

Newly built infrastructure systems are at their best self and continue to deteriorate over the design life. During the same period, a rise in population and economic activities increase “operational load” on infrastructure systems. These two trends underpin that aging increases load on infrastructure systems while its strength continues to decrease. To avoid failure of infrastructure and ensure its satisfactory performance over the design life, especially toward later years of design life, there is a need to assess performance, structural integrity, external risks, and support the infrastructure with adequate maintenance, refurbishment, retrofit or replenishment.  

For example, many of the current stock of 2000 bridges in Italy were built in the 1930s and now nearing design life. In the USA, over 23,500 bridges need repair costing $171 billion. The World Bank estimates 19,000 large dams are over 50 years of age. Such examples highlight that major proportions of critical infrastructure, especially in developed economies, are nearing the end of their design life, or have exceeded it. On the other hand, operational load, and stress due to adverse weather, climate change, and hazards are threatening the resilience of aging infrastructure. Aging infrastructure is at risk by themselves, as well as they may also become vulnerable linkages within integrated infrastructure systems. 

Such situations demand immediate assessment of aging infrastructure systems to determine appropriate actions such as refurbishment, retrofit or replenishment. These demands are compounded by global aspirations of transitioning into net-zero, climate and disaster resilience, inclusiveness, and social justice. Refurbishment and retrofit must significantly increase design life, resilience, and economic viability. Replenishment with new infrastructure must minimize the impact on climate change. Such actions also need to consider the potential of nature-based solutions.  

In this context, this session of ICDRI 2022 proposes to bring together stakeholders from countries having large proportions of aging infrastructure to deliberate on seminal risks and challenges ‘to and from’ aging infrastructure systems. The session will also explore optimal strategy and role for infrastructure actors, including CDRI, that can balance refurbishment and replenishment, with resilience, sustainability, and transition into net-zero.