Construction / Infrastructure Engineering

Construction / Infrastructure Engineering

Civil infrastructure systems are sets of physical structures, facilities, and other resources that provide essential public services. Cateogies of civil infrastructure systems include transportation, water and wastewater, energy production and distribution, communication, etc. These systems are a key driver of economic growth and prosperity for any society. Despite the general consensus over the pivotal social and economic role of a well-maintained civil infrastructure, the overall condition of infrastructure systems in the United States continues to degrade at an alarming pace. According to the 2013 Infrastructure Report Card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), out of 16 infrastructure categories, 11 received a grade of “D+” or worse. The overall grade for America’s infrastructure was a “D+” and it is stated that in order to raise this grade to a “B” by 2020, a total of $3.6 trillion are needed.

Infrastructure asset management focuses on optimizing the infrastructure investments and expenditures through systematic and coordinated decision making procedures. It focuses on the whole life cycles of infrastructure systems covering the planning and design phases followed by construction, operations and maintenance, in-service evaluation and assessment, repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and decommissioning phases. Increasing levels of demand placed on these systems coupled with budgetary limitations urge researchers and agencies seek innovative solutions to rapid degradation of civil infrastructure systems.

Our faculty speciliazing in infrastructure engineering investigates various topics under the domain of civil infrastructure management (including but not limited to): risk assessment and mitigation, deterioration and performance modeling, sustainable construction practices, accelerated construction, life cycle cost analysis, life cycle assessment, and trenchless technologies.

Our research also focuses on best practices in Integrated Construction Project Management (IPM) with regards to optimization methodologies for the construction projects given the multitude of constraints including the project budget, schedule, risk, quality requirements, human resources, communication channels, procurement practices and the stakeholder management. In concert with these initiatives, we look into the existing or potential interdisciplinary connections that exist between the costruction engineering and across other economic, social and societal sectors that are often overlooked at traditional project management research and resource optimization practices. These competencies include, but not limited to, engineering entrepreneurship; budgeting and financial planning; organizational behavior; managerial strategic planning; game-theory applications in construction management; cultural and intercultural considerations in managing multinational and multi-background engineering project teams; litigations and construction claims as well as the health and safety, and sustainability initiatives in construction engineering and project management.


Smart Management of Water Systems

In light of the need to manage water systems in ways that are resilient to climate change, feasible given the current state of aging infrastructure, and responsive to a legacy of pollution, the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is engaged in building an international knowledge base to facilitate the design of sustainable water infrastructures. We use a systems based approach “from source to city to receiving water body” which emphasizes methods appropriate for regions with plentiful water supply. The work requires interactions among scientists, engineers, water managers, and decision makers to connect science and decision making for urgent water policy issues.

Working within this domain, we employ a Sense, Analyze, Interpret, Decide and Act (SAIDA) approach to the design of water systems. This “hydro-informatics” approach is computationally based and uses novel sensor arrays, wireless technologies, web informatics, and novel decision tools. The sensing systems allow real-time assessment of urban and watershed fluxes, permit the evaluation and optimization of green infrastructure for water management, and form the basis for modular models to support design and decision-making to mitigate pollution and increase infrastructure system resiliency.

Recent work also involves hydrologic modeling across scales from local to continental using high performance computing. For example, we are conducting distributed modeling of headwater systems to improve our understanding of hydrologic processes as well as to evaluate how researchers and practitioners can better use complex models within an uncertainty framework. The college’s work in this field is based upon expertise in hydrology, soil physics, aquatic and soil chemistry, sensor systems and informatics. It draws added depth from colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences who conduct research in the areas of geology, geomorphology, sociology and history. Current projects include instrumenting green roofs to measure water inflows, outflows, and assessment of water chemistry; identifying social and political factors leading Syracuse to emerge as a national leader in green infrastructure; and developing a wireless sensor network to monitor green infrastructure performance in real time. In addition, a major grant has established the Education Model Program on Water Energy Research (EMPOWER) to fund graduate students working at the nexus of water and energy research.

A related area  of research connects smart water management with the study of critical and resilient infrastructure. Working from an interdisciplinary perspective with colleagues from the Maxwell School of Public Affairs and the Law School, we study the security of water infrastructures and examine their resilience to natural, technological, and terroristic hazards.

Urban Water: Hydrologic Processes and Sustainable Management

Syracuse University’s unique Urban Water program trains undergraduate students in research techniques in water science and engineering, through independent research projects focusing on hydrology, water quality and sustainable water management conducted in a multidisciplinary, collaborative and open research environment. The projects advance fundamental and applied water science and engineering, focusing on urban water systems such as water supply, wastewater treatment, stormwater management and effects on urban streams and lakes.


Sustainability Science

Resources of the earth have provided sustenance for life from the earliest days of living cells to the burgeoning human population today. However, we are now consuming these resources at a rate that cannot be sustained. Our food production depletes nutrients from the soil faster than nature can replenish them. Our use of water results in production of wastewater at a rate greater than nature can purify it. The delicate balance between carbon uptake from the atmosphere by vegetation and emission to the atmosphere by decay of living organisms has been disturbed by our combustion of fossil fuels. As a result, we are now experiencing global change with the potential to disrupt our food supply, sources of water, and economic well-being.

Solving these problems is the domain of Sustainability Science, a new field focusing on complex, coupled human and natural systems. This emerging field presents widespread opportunities for all disciplines of engineering. At the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), we are conducting front-line research on novel technologies for energy production, energy storage, development of new materials, design of water management systems, and manufacturing products and processes. Many of these projects are interdisciplinary; the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, housed in a new LEED Platinum building, has advanced laboratories for studying the built environment from wide ranging perspectives. We are also working closely with city, county, and state officials to conduct research on urban water and energy in Central New York as well as in natural settings such as the Adirondacks. The Center for Sustainable Engineering, a consortium of universities around the country headquartered at SU, conducts workshops for professors who wish to include the latest information on sustainability in their courses.

Preserving life as we know it for the sustained future will require major technological innovations as well as tremendous shifts in the way people live, work, and play. ECS is leading the way in this most critical research area.


Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical Research in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering includes laboratory testing, model simulations and field observations to investigate material behavior and performance verification of sustainable built environments. Current research areas cover behaviors and interactions of geofoams, geotextiles and soils in the following:

  • Enhancing of dewatering performance of contaminated dredged sediments from water bodies in the US with green materials (natural flocculants, natural fibers and waste Cellulosic).
  • Bench, pilot, and large-scale tests to evaluate the interaction between sediments, flocculants, and geotextiles.
  • Sustainable use of re-cycled and waste products, such as plastics and fly ash, for infrastructure construction and rehabilitation.
  • Investigation of basic properties of collapsible soils.
  • Forensic geotechnical investigation of unusual failures.
  • Testing, modeling and monitoring of geofoam blocks for new applications.
  • Non-destructive testing and evaluation for rapid construction.
  • Evaluation and use of innovative sensors and data acquisition systems.

Significance and impact of research in the Geotechnical Engineering specialty:

  • Research findings have led to improvements in testing, standards, design and specification of natural and synthetic fibers and flocculants for the protection of stream banks, highway trenches and slopes, embankments, levees and lake sediment dewatering and containment.
  • Improved understanding of geofoam behavior and performance as a super lightweight construction material has enabled creative applications.


Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering research at Syracuse University includes a broad range of activities in both engineered systems and the natural environment. Active projects incorporate field and laboratory process studies, experiments and modeling activities. We pursue interdisciplinary research that integrates the biological, chemical, and physical sciences to answer questions that are relevant to society.

The department has a long history of research that characterizes and quantifies the response of watersheds to land disturbance, such as logging, climate events,  urbanization, and air pollution, notably acid deposition and trace metals, including mercury. This work has now been expanded to include trace organics and dissolved organic matter. The research incorporates long-term monitoring of ecosystems, process measurements in the field, manipulative experiments, development of natural and engineered treatment systems, and modeling to address research questions that are relevant to policy makers. New research in green stormwater control technologies builds on this experience in ecological monitoring and experimentation.

We have recently enhanced our research on climate change. This includes modeling future changes in hydrologic processes and in natural and managed ecosystems as well as impacts of policy alternatives to mitigate change. For example, we have examined the health benefits in terms of lives saved and hospitalizations avoided, and ecosystem benefits of regulating carbon emissions from power plants for various scenarios of carbon emissions. We are also working closely with practitioners to examine the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme events such as flooding, drought, and extended heat waves. We have recently expanded this capability to include the vulnerability and resilience of urban infrastructures to terroristic hazards. We have initiated a large field and modeling study to examine the long-term consequences associated with increased frequency of ice storms.

The environmental engineering research has been bolstered through strategic partnerships with industry and government. For example, we are collaborating with the City and County governments to better understand how green infrastructure technologies perform under a wide range of weather conditions. Our joint research with industrial partners accelerated the remediation efforts at Onondaga Lake resulting in the development of a novel treatment technology for sediments contaminated with mercury and saving millions of taxpayer dollars.