Theme 2: Visualizing and optimising interdependencies within and across infrastructures

This theme brings together interests in the visualization of complex engineering projects; and interests in interdependencies across different kinds of infrastructure systems, towards systems engineering in a human-natural environment.

Within this theme there is a concern with data analytics and display using immersive visualization, augmented reality and BIM techniques. As analytics and modelling become conducted across datasets, there are questions about how such engineering information is aggregated, analysed, presented and visualised; how its validity is verified; and how users are made aware of the validity and provenance of aggregated information through visual displays. Here there are connections with work on computationally unifying urban master-planning in the Data Science Institute.

Systems engineering is typically focused on elements that can include people, information technologies, materials, policies and documents that are needed for systems-level integration. However, to achieve sustainable development requires a further expansion of the systems engineering boundary to include the circular economy and ecosystem services (that is, the benefits people obtain from ecosystems) in decision-making.

Hence, research interest within this theme include:

  • Developing decision-making support tools - Starting with the decision, this work traces back to the kind of information that needs to be synthesised, optimised and made available to the decision maker.
  • Visualizing interactions - Displaying physical connections, mass, energy and information flows across interfaces in systems. This work will use graph theory to analyse and make visible the interactions involved across complex engineering projects
  • Visualization of built infrastructure - This work will develop new visual interfaces to digital information about built assets; overlaying analytic information onto the physical representation and creating workflows for scalable interactive visualisation forms.

This theme is connected to the work of Dr Ana Mijic and Dr Ivan Stoianov (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Dr David Birch (Data Sciences Institute).

Research call

Working with our successful research call applicants Dr Koen van Dam, Dr Miao Guo and Dr Chris Mazur theme 2 is conducting a feasibility Study into green infrastructures interrelation with water-energy-waste nexus.

Background: With rapid urbanisation it becomes essential to plan effective use of land and other resources to support sustainable and resilient development. Green infrastructure plays a vital role in managing water, air quality as well as quality of life. However, such bio-physical systems are complex, spanning from plant-land-climate interaction to their interdependency with built environment (e.g. energy-water-waste infrastructure). Decision-support is needed to understand their impact on social systems and other physical infrastructure. Our existing framework includes an agent-based simulation modelof urban systems to test different socio-demographic scenarios generating demands for infrastructure services (e.g. energy, water), and resource technology network optimisation to achieve the trade-off between cost-optimal solutions, environmental targets and Sustainable Development Goals, but not yet covers bio-physical systems.

Objectives: The aim of this project is to see if it is feasible to include bio-physical systems (e.g. green infrastructure) interconnected with environmental variables into a systems engineering approach and model this within a socio-technical framework. Building on ongoing research at Imperial on, we aim to extend the model and test a case study in China’s Jingjinji Capital Economic Zone (one of 10 mega regions). This case study will examine the interdependency of these green infrastructure with energy-water-waste nexus and the potential of such infrastructure to clean contaminated land and play a role in managing flooding, leading to more resilient cities.

Potential industry impact: Decision support for design and evaluation of solutions under range of scenarios, which will be tested with our industry partners Turenscape on design as well as Resilience Brokers Ltd which focuses on city resilience and green growth transformation across 200 city regions. Through collaboration we demonstrate the real-world feasibility and cross-country learning.