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Astani Department Co-Sponsors Major Workshop on 21st Century Infrastructure

Southern California both the site and a major subject of discussion in day long meeting

August 03, 2009 —

The Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environment Engineering was a co-sponsor of a "21st Century Infrastructure Workshop" July 23.

Viterbi School Professor Jean-Pierre Bardet was an opening speaker welcoming a large group of invited leaders in the fields of engineering, environment, academia, government, labor and public health to the Beverly Hills meeting site, "to begin making an historic shift in order to meet our region's pressing needs."

Bardet making opening remarks at the 21st century infrastructure workshop held at the TreePeople Center in Beverly Hills.
Bardet, chair of the Astani Department, was also co-author of the White Paper that set the tone and was a focus of discussion by the 51 participants.(see list)

"Public Infrastructure is a community's life-support system, protecting and enhancing public health and safety, and enabling and supporting a viable economy," the 4-page document begins. "Yet most public infrastructure was designed before there was scientific understanding of ecosystems, or tools to manage complex urban systems. It has been typically conceived, built and managed by individual, single-purpose agencies without a view to long term goals and outcomes. This is the case in infrastructure ranging from transportation - such as roads and bridges, rail, airports, ports and harbors - to energy, water, communications, and flood control.

"Usually infrastructure investment occurs within these individual areas as in “silos,” without consideration of “cross-silo” efficiencies or inefficiencies. Within these silos, investment decisions are typically made at an individual project level, without a wider programmatic or portfolio level view. As a result of this fragmentation, public policy is too often made project by project, with the result being inefficiency, duplication, waste, and often serious economic, environmental and social consequences.
Suja Lowenthal, MWH International, reporting on the findings of a breakout session

"This is a critical moment in the Los Angeles region to bring forward a new integrated approach for infrastructure design to take advantage of impending, massive investments of state and federal infrastructure funding. With a new response to infrastructure we can do much to repair damage to, and ensure the protection of, public health and the environment while meeting pressing social needs."

The proceedings included a video presentation from Van Jones, one of the members of the council of environmental quality created by President Obama., and  presentations by Richard J Jackson MD, Professor and Chair, Environmental Health Sciences, UCLA School of Public Health,  Patrick M. Condon. Design Centre for Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, and  and Don Smith, Chairman, MWH Global. They also included breakout sessons, in which participants discussed the issues.
Besides the Astani Department, the other sponsors including Los Angeles Tree People (whose founder, Andy Lipkis joined Bardet at the podium for the conference opening), the California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy, and Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH)

The new workshop grew directly out of a November 10-11 gathering on Megacities held at USC, co-sponsored by the Viterbi School, the  USC Provost's Office, and MWH. Further details about the gathering can be found at the 21st Century Infrastructure homepage on the USC Megacities site.