Imperial College London

Systems Engineering and Infrastructure – Opportunities and Challenges


Ana Mijic

Systems Engineering and Infrastructure – Opportunities and Challenges

The last in our Seminar Series was opened by CSEI Executive Director, Professor Washington Ochieng, who welcomed participants and introduced our closing speaker, CSEI co-Director Dr Ana Mijic. In her presentation, Dr Mijic gave an overview of the challenges, but also enormous opportunities afforded by a systems approach, referring to the work on Systems Engineering she is spearheading within the Centre.

Her presentation was divided into three parts which aimed to answer three main questions:

  • How we envision future built-natural environment systems
  • How we evaluate the performance of our existing systems and redesign them in the context of the future vision
  • How we integrate decisions on how to regulate, operate, design and build for the future using systems approaches

adding that, since the purpose of infrastructure is human flourishing and that infrastructure is a system of systems, we must envision and manage infrastructure accordingly.

Operate and maintain graphic with houses

In order to fully understand and manage this link between natural and built environments, a systems approach is necessary. The latter will allow for solutions that go:

  • Beyond cities, as we need to understand the wider environment and how our infrastructure decisions contribute to the pollution which causes environmental damage
  • Beyond carbon, looking at direct pollution as any substance or any form of energy emitted to the environment at a rate faster than it can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in some harmless form
  • Beyond direct pollution, understanding the embodied pollution associated with infrastructure materials, and water and land footprint.

Dr Mijic proposed the concept of Environmentally-Positive Infrastructure (EPI) as an adaptive system of systems intrinsically linked to people and the natural environment

The EPI thinking will help to:

  • Better understand targets for offsetting environmental impacts
  • Set development goals within the capacity of natural systems
  • Improve resilience, safety and sustainability through policy, technology and behavioural change options for future-proofing.

The Q&A touched upon:

  • The balance between sustainability and viability
  • The challenges of integration in relation to the ecological impact of the system
  • The coordination function within systems – who is responsible for the whole system?
  • Scenario analysis capabilities of models.

Dr Mijic concluded by saying that, in order to achieve EPI, there is a need for enhanced coordination and integration, and this is where part of the value of a systems approach lies.

To watch a recording of the event, click here.

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Jeni Giambona

Jeni Giambona
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering