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Infrastructure Ecology: An Evolving Paradigm for Sustainable Urban Development

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Full Publication Date
October 1, 2017

Increasing urbanization places cities at the forefront of achieving global sustainability. For cities to become more sustainable, however, the infrastructure on which they rely must also become more productive, efficient and resilient. Unfortunately the current paradigm of urban infrastructure development is fragmented in approach lacking a systems perspective. Urban infrastructure systems are analogous to ecological systems because they are interconnected, complex and adaptive components that exchange material, information and energy among themselves and to and from the environment, and exhibit characteristic scaling properties that can be expressed by Zipf's Law. Analyzing them together as a whole, as one would do for an ecological system, provides a better understanding about their dynamics and interactions, and enables system-level optimization. The adoption of this “infrastructure ecology” approach will result in urban (re)development that requires lower investment of financial and natural resources to build and maintain, is more sustainable (e.g. uses less materials and energy and generates less waste) and resilient, and enables a greater and more equitable opportunities for the creation of wealth and comfort. The 12 guiding principles of infrastructure ecology will provide a set of goals for urban planners, engineers and other decision-makers in an urban system for urban (re)development.

Arka Pandit
Elizabeth A. Minne
Feng Li
Hillary Brown
Hyunju Jeong
Jean-Ann C. James
John C. Crittenden
Marc Weissburg
Michael E. Chang
Perry Yang
Rusong Wang
Valerie M. Thomas
Xuewei Yu
Zhongming Lu
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Complex-adaptive systems, Infrastructural symbiosis, Infrastructure ecology, Integrated urban infrastructure systems, Sustainable urban infrastructure systems
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation
Pandit, Arka, Elizabeth A. Minne, Feng Li, Hillary Brown, Hyunju Jeong, Jean-Ann C. James, Joshua P. Newell, Marc Weissburg, Michael E. Chang, Ming Xu, Perry Yang, Rusong Wang, Valerie M. Thomas, Xuewei Yu, Zhongming Lu, John C. Crittenden. (2017) “Infrastructure ecology: an evolving paradigm for sustainable urban development.” Journal of Cleaner Production. 163(Supplement): S19-S27.