Dlandstudio PLLC

Infra-sutures: A National Infrastructure and Environmental Renewal Initiative

Lead Organization

Dlandstudio PLLC

New York, New York, United States


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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

The introduction of water systems, transportation systems, and modern communication networks transformed the United States. However, this infrastructure has divided communities, bisected habitats, and interfered with migration routes. With awareness focusing on Green Infrastructure, environmental justice, and the renewal of natural habitats, this project will reconnect communities, catalyze social and environmental justice, and promote invention and development of new energy and transit models. This reconnecting is enabled through a digital survey of highway and water management systems to make information about infrastructure, jurisdictions and its built condition accessible to the public. The survey will enable a focus on “infra-suturing” where infrastructure assets can be reconceptualized to support connections rather than divisions. Through a national mapping of pre-infrastructure connections, together with a survey of existing assets, the national infrastructure systems can be reanalyzed for opportunities to transform the relationship between infrastructure and the human and natural environments.

Problem Statement

The development of the United States parallels advancements in infrastructure technologies. The Interstate Highway System, the expansion of water treatment facilities, sewer systems, communication networks, and electrical grids are only a handful of the infrastructure systems that have transformed the country. However, in the process of expanding, innovating, and addressing the need for better health and a greater economy, infrastructure systems were often developed with minimal regard to potential negative impacts they would have on local communities. Examples of these impacts include cities being divided by highways, poor communities being unduly burdened with waste treatment facilities, waterways polluted from roads placed too close to water resources, and migration paths being split by rural development. While urban areas such as Boston and New York have placed a significant priority on repairing these impacts, the majority of infrastructure impacts remain undocumented or unresolved.Facilitating a change to this often unseen and under-reported challenge requires an understanding of how widespread and endemic the issue is in the United States. With 50 state jurisdictions and over 3,000 county jurisdictions in the United States, information on local systems is at the best widely distributed and, and more commonly, unavailable to the general public and researchers. However, awareness at the local level can foster innovative approaches to mitigating the negative effects of infrastructure. Examples such as wildlife crossings, minimization of light pollution, and placing a greater emphasis on renewable energy sources are just a few of the changes that occur through awareness and knowledge sharing.

Solution Overview

The Infra-sutures project will address the national issue of infrastructure and ecological renewal through a national mapping and inventory initiative. Following in the footsteps of John Wesley Powell who championed the first topological mapping of the United States, Infra-sutures is a foundational step towards introducing every community in the country to new opportunities presented by infrastructure systems. The team will create the national repository through a geographic information system mapping effort that brings together engineering and design students from programs in every state. Utilizing state-of-the-art surveying equipment together with satellite imaging, the national team will develop an on-line repository that combines infrastructure systems with ecological zones, census data, and watershed maps into a single opportunity repository.The focus of the maps will be on the identification of opportunity corridors. These corridors will highlight areas where an infrastructure system has divided a natural or built environment. The corridors may go through urban areas such as in Oakland, CA, or through farmland and coastal zones such as along the Florida coastline. The mapping and identification of these areas will spur innovation efforts focused on how to renew these areas through re-stitching. Examples of these innovations may include new concepts for wildlife corridors, new park locations, water reclamation opportunities, and new community centers. In this manner, the mapping effort is not only a documentation effort, it is an identification of the underutilized and forgotten spaces that exist under, around, and over infrastructure pathways.

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Project Funders

  • Environmental Facilities Corporation 2010 - 2016
  • WCS/NOAA/USGS 2011 - 2012
  • Metropolitan St Louis Sewer District 2012 - 2019

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