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WGI’s 2022 Predictions for the Infrastructure Industry: A Focus on Innovation, Sustainability, Resilience, and Adaptability

WGI’s experts from multiple divisions share their thoughts and predictions in terms of what we can expect to see in our industry in 2022 and beyond.
infrastructure predictions blog post graphic

As the Infrastructure Bill seeks to address improvements to our nation’s infrastructure in terms of roads and bridges, railroads, power grid, broadband, water infrastructure, public transit, electric vehicles, airports, ports and the environment, we asked a selection of WGI subject matter experts across our divisions for their thoughts and predictions in terms of what we can expect to see in our industry in 2022 and beyond.

Overall, we saw strategic themes related to innovation, sustainability, resilience, and adaptability as digital transformation continues to transform our industry and departments and agencies continue to prepare for continuous disruption.

“The market is demanding a change to how our world is envisioned, designed, and experienced. At WGI, we are committed to meeting this challenge head-on with technology-based solutions which are sustainable, resilient, and adaptable. Together, our clients and our associates are using the opportunities in front of us to make our world a better place, collectively being the change we all seek.”
david wantman WGI
David Wantman, PE

Some of the key technology enablers seen as having a major impact in 2022 include data analytics, AI/ML, electric fleets, digital twins, 3D printing, blockchain and LiDAR. All these enablers need to be carefully orchestrated and applied working in harmony with various political, economic, social, legal, and environmental forces and considerations as our Associates share here:

Data analytics and AI/ML will support a strong national electric grid

"Data analytics, and by extension, machine learning will become an important factor in the electrical infrastructure discussion in 2022. With federal funding and commitments from major vehicle manufacturers and distributions to electric vehicle charging – our national electric grid will require upgrades, particularly to its ability to predict where power will be needed and where it can pull power from. As alternative energy capture and storage investment increase at both the commercial and residential level; analytics, machine learning and more sophisticated software protection mechanisms will be required to support a strong national electric grid."
Marc R
Marc Remmert, PE
Director, MEP Engineering

Electric vehicle adoption will experience both strong headwinds and tailwinds

“Electric vehicle adoption is going to skyrocket thanks to (1) massive federal investment in charging station installations, and (2) big deals for rental/shared fleets. In October, Hertz announced the largest Tesla buy for 100,000 rental cars by the end of 2022 and Envoy technologies inked deals with hotels to provide electric car rentals on-site. This will normalize electric cars more effectively than dealership test drives. However, quick electric vehicle adoption will further strain the federal funding mechanism to fund infrastructure (the “gas tax”) quickly, accelerating difficult conversations on per mile fees and tolls. Moreover, electric cars will not solve congestion, parking woes, inefficient land use, or the cost burden of car ownership for many households.”
Lisa Nisenson Headshot
Lisa Nisenson
VP, New Mobility and Connected Communities

AI/ML, digital twin and quantum computing will enable significant advances for traffic control

"Artificial Intelligence in traffic control is our pathway to the futuristic dream we all hold for transportation. Currently, AI is being integrated into traffic signal systems to maximize traffic flow and reduce operating costs for agencies. In the near future, there will be great advances in smart operating systems, decision support systems and data services as we see more advanced computing tools such as digital twin traffic models and next level quantum processing become more commonplace."
Acey Roberts
Acey Roberts, PE, IAM
Traffic Operations Division Manager

3D printing will combat supply chain issues and construction labor deficiencies

“We are amidst a fourth industrial revolution, where automation and data are driving innovation across all business sectors. 3D printing is a process to utilize data directly from a building information model (BIM) to robotically construct resilient structures faster, more economically, and using less raw material than traditional construction methods. 3D printing will take on a critical role in the construction industry as implementation of this technology directly combats supply chain issues and construction labor deficiencies that currently dominate the industry and significantly drive up prices. In 2022, our industry will leverage this technology to build a structure in space as well as fulfill societal objectives for inclusive and affordable housing options for under-served and workforce communities across the globe.”
Eric Luttman
Eric Luttmann, AIA
Director, Architecture

Blockchain will further enable data sharing and monetization

“In 2022 I believe AE firms will trend toward the use of blockchain to retain ownership of data which can then be released and monetized in the wild. Many AEC firms own hundreds of Terabytes of data that could be made available to the public through blockchain where they retain control of who uses that data and collect proper fees and royalties for its use. Blockchain can be used to encourage sharing of the data by providing referral fees to users that promote the data which helps grow the data client base. Blockchain is the next generation "subscription service" without the subscriptions."
Sandor Laszlo
Sandor Laszlo, PE
Regional Manager Technology, Geospatial

Creative solutions will be essential in drainage engineering and stormwater planning

“In 2022, more municipalities and permitting agencies will require expanded drainage engineering measures requiring more thorough proof of your development’s impact on water quantity and quality. Municipalities have growing concerns about stormwater impacts due to the significant storm impacts, focus on resiliency, changes in federal regulations, and fast paced growth, and the regulations being put in place will likely increase the cost of development especially adjacent to Texas streams and rivers. Developers will need to anticipate changes in development potential by tracking political winds, building relationships with municipal leaders and identifying opportunities to lock in existing entitlements onto current projects. When planning for an upcoming project having a design team that has experience in creative solutions and city relationships will likely be essential in getting your project through permitting.”
Russell Yeager
Russell Yeager, PE
Director, Civil Engineering

Real-time analytical tools for water systems operations and asset management

“For 2022 and beyond, the trends toward real-time analytical tools for water systems operations and asset management, applying satellite data, artificial intelligence, and data modeling, will evolve in the form of smart water technologies, per EPA, AWWA and multiple water industry publications. The criticality of the sustainability and resiliency of water infrastructure in the wake of climate change impacts will push the capabilities of software, hardware, and cloud computing to provide immediate information on system performance and cybersecurity monitoring, as well as dynamic data analysis for proactive decision making based upon risk modeling. Prioritizing investments in infrastructure remediation based upon machine learned and resultant predictive analytics of water system conditions will be required for utilities to justify expenditures to their stakeholders and comply with funding resources, while ensuring water systems reliability. As an engineering consultant, WGI intends to leverage our presence in the market by prioritizing our capabilities in smart water technologies, gaining expertise with operations and asset management software applications, decision processes, and data visualization tools, as well as offering digital water solutions facilitation, from selection to implementation, to clients.”
Leigh Thomas
Leigh Thomas
Director, Public Infrastructure - Water

Democratization of LiDAR will make scanning even more user friendly

“Handheld LiDAR scanners and apps will continue to improve. The quality of scans should improve with updates and new algorithms. The updated algorithms will be able to process existing raw point clouds with greater accuracy. This will result in better scan definition and details. With the proliferation of Apple devices with LiDAR capabilities (iPhone 12 Pro, 13 Pro, and iPad Pro), this will give scanning ability to anyone. This will help AEC firms with site visit documentation, equipment detail capturing, and so on. This will also make lidar scanning even less expensive and more user friendly.”
Peck s
Peck Sukphisit
BIM Manager

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will free up more creativity within the AEC industry

"Using the Software as a Service model, Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) is now accessible to companies with a modest budget and little to no experience with AI technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) coupled with related technologies Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) will change the AEC proposal process. This will include use cases across business development, proposal selection and go/no-go, submittal preparation and staffing, quality control, submittal after-action and ongoing competitive analysis. However, artificial intelligence will not fully automate the proposal process. AI should do the tedious, time-consuming work: selecting the proposal, identifying relevant materials, recommending the best team, and reviewing the submittal for accuracy and content. This will allow proposal teams more time to craft creative and compelling content. In 2022, AEC firms should explore the advantages of using AI for business development and CRM before tackling larger, more sensitive datasets."
Blake Wallace headshot
Blake Wallace
Data Engineer

Asset design and delivery investments will incorporate sustainability, climate resilience, and adaptation considerations

“Providers of investment capital and insurance will accelerate requirements that asset design and delivery incorporate sustainability, climate resilience, and adaptation considerations. This will be true for both public funds and private equity. Capital market and insurance actuaries will grade investment risk based upon demonstrations of:
• Risk mitigation that enables elastically – returning to a state that preceded disruptions, and
• The ability to adapt to a world that is permanently under transformation, where both social and physical elements are mobilized.”
Gary Lawrence
Director, Sustainable and Resilient Strategies

Transforming how our world is envisioned, designed, and experienced

The future of the infrastructure industry depends on innovative thought leaders influencing our industry to adopt the latest cutting-edge technologies and practices in order to remain flexible.

WGI is dedicated to embracing innovation, technology, and empowering our associates to transform how our world is envisioned, designed, and experienced.

If you would like to have a conversation with one of WGI’s thought leaders to discuss any of the topics covered in this article, feel free to contact us.

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