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WGI’s 2023 Predictions for the Infrastructure Industry

WGI’s experts from multiple divisions share their thoughts and predictions in terms of what we can expect to see in our industry in 2023 and beyond. By Nicholas D. Evans, Chief Innovation Officer, WGI

As the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act reaches our diverse client base, WGI anticipates continued strength in the federal and state transportation and infrastructure markets. According to our CEO, David Wantman, despite the continued challenges in the labor market, the market has proven very resilient in the face of what has oftentimes been contradictory macroeconomic data.

Given this industry backdrop, we asked a selection of WGI leaders and subject matter experts across our divisions for their thoughts and predictions in terms of what we can expect to see in our industry in 2023 and beyond.

Overall, we saw a continuation of strategic themes from last year’s predictions related to innovation, sustainability, resilience, and adaptability as digital transformation continues to transform our industry, but some interesting new shifts and consequential developments as well.

“Don’t be surprised when technology companies begin purchasing infrastructure design firms. Their interest won’t lie in delivering plans or projects, but rather acquiring the talent to assist with advancing their software to automate the design space.”
david wantman WGI
David Wantman, PE
CEO

Our experts expect to see the continued fusion of technology and infrastructure; design standards changing to improve the resilience of infrastructure; architects envisioning tomorrow’s vibrant and adaptable destinations with reverence to yesterday; the year that the “surprise” of catastrophic events will be greatly lessened with access to real-time flood forecasting; the growth of alternative energy going hand-in-hand with the proliferation of EV charging installation; maximizing water as a resource with cutting edge infrastructure; tech skills in our industry moving from perk to preference; small-scale interventions creating system-wide change via the use of data analytics; intelligent data extracted from non-intelligent sources (LiDAR, imagery) via the use of AI; and much more.

Our industry is innovating with emerging technologies such as AI/ML, digital twins, and data analytics, but is also morphing rapidly to incorporate requisite skill sets and acquire talent to further automate the design space. The industry is also doing more with less by using these technologies to accomplish quick wins through automation as well as building for the future.

"Industry disruption will continue to take shape as we start to see separation in the traditional AEG players and those that are aggressively embracing the digital future. While we continue to see large-scale appreciation for the growing role of technology, the majority of firms are adopting technology to enhance internal processes. There is a growing minority of firms that are acquiring, building, and leveraging expertise and IP to create digital services practices as an integral part of their portfolio. Highlighting this is the fact that nearly 10 percent of all industry acquisitions were focused on technology in 2022."
Gregory Sauter, PE
WGI President

According to our recent primary research, some of the key technology enablers seen as having a major business impact in 2023 include AI/ML, autonomous vehicles / electric fleets, digital twins, AR/VR, predictive analytics, and LiDAR. Most interestingly, they’re being combined and fused together to deliver innovative outcomes that aid industry insights and decision making as our Associates share here:

Design standards will begin to change to improve the resilience of infrastructure

“To improve resilience of infrastructure, commercial and residential assets in areas where climate change consequences can be severe, design standards will begin to change. Currently, per Federal sources, only 35% of counties, cities, and towns have hazard-resilient building codes. Those that do, report billions in avoided cost of damages compared to outdated code communities. Insurability, cost of capital, and public safety will be the key drivers.”
Gary Lawrence
Director, Sustainable and Resilient Strategies

Architects will envision tomorrow’s vibrant and adaptable destinations with reverence to yesterday

“You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.”
- Maya Angelou
“The future of living is upon us, and we must embrace it. Moving into 2023, we predict that architects will explore consulting and placemaking through intersecting lenses of advancing electric technology, new autonomous mobility, and the future user experience. The evolution of their design practice must thoughtfully respond to how we will live, work, gather, and commute between home and destination. Modes of contemporary transit are no longer limited to the last ¼ mile, and our lifestyles will naturally evolve alongside this process to a dynamic, connected re-urbanization. Architects will drive collaboration with other progressive partners to transform infrastructure, envisioning tomorrow’s vibrant and adaptable destinations with reverence to yesterday.”
Eric Luttman
Eric Luttmann, AIA
Director, Architecture

The “surprise” of catastrophic events will be greatly lessened with real-time flood forecasting

“Hurricane Ian has once again reminded us of our vulnerability and susceptibility to both coastal storm surge and inland rainfall-induced flooding. 2023 will be the year that the “surprise” of these catastrophic events will be greatly lessened with real-time flood forecasting tools. The technology to predict flooding at the street, house, and critical infrastructure level up to 3 days in advance is available now; it simply needs to be embraced by emergency response officials.”
Pete Singhofen
CEO, Streamline Technologies Inc.

The proliferation of EV charging will change the US electric grid as we know it

“Power infrastructure will continue to be a critical focus for the US in 2023. Over the next decade, the country is embarking on a monumental shift to the electrical grid, both in demand and resiliency. From a demand perspective, 2023 will see the design and start of construction for the federally funded network of electric vehicle chargers across the country. This comes in parallel with the ongoing construction of privately funded electric vehicle charging stations for the growing distribution and last-mile delivery service companies. The proliferation of electric vehicle charging and its secondary and tertiary effects on the land use surrounding those areas will cause a remaking of the electrical grids in cities across the country.”
Marc R
Mark Remmert, PE
Director, MEP Engineering

Cutting-edge infrastructure will allow engineering teams to maximize water as a resource

“We have continued to see significant concerns from local, state, and national jurisdictions about the impacts on both drainage infrastructure and water usage required by private development. The rapid growth of the sun belt is beginning to put notable pressure on the natural environment to renew the water used by growing communities and needed by natural ecosystems downstream. We are eager to utilize and develop cutting-edge infrastructure to allow our engineering teams to work to protect, enhance, and reestablish riparian ecosystems that help to maximize water as a resource and meet changing agency requirements.”
Leigh Thomas
Leigh Thomas
Director, Public Infrastructure - Water

Maximizing human capital by augmenting staff with technology that assists in efficiency

“The AEC industry continues to struggle with recruiting and training talent to match the retiring workforce. Maximizing our human capital by augmenting staff with technology that assists in efficiency by reducing the effort associated with repetitive design, digital plan coordination, conflict resolution, safety, construction verification, and operational knowledge is going to continue to be a critical opportunity and service in the future. Expanding the expertise of engineering and design professionals and maximizing the data that they create will be a critical trend to meet the market demands for our industry. Utilization of data visualization, augmented reality, virtual reality, and digital twins will continue to be the norm for firms learning to maximize their workforce.”
Russell Yeager
Russell Yeager, PE
Director, Civil Engineering

Engaging the public at a higher level with extended reality

“As we move into 2023, governments, consultants, and developers will continue to find ways to promote community engagement and citizen participation in the AEC industry. A way in which to do that is the inclusion of AR/VR technology in the process. Using this technology in the public participation realm can increase public interest, encourage interaction and serve as a valuable tool for all stakeholders. Whether it be to demonstrate the impacts of environmental factors such as sea level rise or human factors such as the impact of new development on existing communities, AR/VR technologies represent a tremendous opportunity to engage the public at a higher level.”
Lindsay Libes, AICP
VP, Civil

A shift in demand for computer programming skills from perk to preference

“As automation and data continue to drive innovation across all business sectors, the need for data analytics and computer programming skillsets among design teams is already evident. To leverage the emerging technologies coming into the industry every day, we need tech-savvy designers and engineers who can utilize the full capabilities of these technologies. In 2023, I predict we will see a shift in demand for computer programming skills from perk to preference in new hires in order to deliver on our clients’ needs for custom, innovative solutions, or risk maintaining a workforce whose technical skills are outpaced by the capabilities of the technologies it uses.”
Jackson Glover
Innovation Engineer, Transportation

Small-scale and iterative interventions that create system-wide change will take hold across the country via the in-depth use of data analytics

“Moving into 2023, key players in the development world, both private and public, will increasingly turn to the use of data and new technology to better understand issues and make decisions. Key to motivating this shift are new sources of funding that have emerged following the COVID-19 Pandemic and the new and expanded infrastructure funding. These opportunities have brought a heightened focus to mobility-related issues, such as multi-modal connectivity, safety, and resilience. Small-scale interventions that create system-wide change will take hold in cities and counties across the country as a more in-depth use of data analytics reveals minute inefficiencies. Key development initiatives, like WGI’s Complete Streets+ will lead the charge in addressing large-scale problems with small-scale solutions. As we transition into 2023, the methods in which development professionals conduct analyses, make decisions, and model outcomes will be supplemented by a greater inclusion of data analytics, either through spatial analyses or visualization.”
Lisa Nisenson Headshot
Lisa Nisenson
VP, New Mobility and Connected Communities
Tyler Tornese
Planner

AI tools will quickly and accurately come to more sustainable, affordable design solutions

“With the AI tools at our disposal getting smarter every day, I foresee the AEC companies leading the industry in technology starting to employ AI to find optimal solutions for typical design problems like the structural design of a floor system. Using AI tools will allow the team to quickly and accurately come to a more sustainable, affordable solution that benefits the whole design team. The use of AI may seem scary to some, but this shift should be seen as the next step in the digital age, and if we are not working smarter, our services won’t be able to compete.”
Ayse Heckle
Innovation Engineer, Buildings

AI will enable intelligent data to be extracted from non-intelligent sources

“2023 will be a pivotal year for the use of Artificial Intelligence and will make great headway into how intelligent data is extracted from non-intelligent sources (LiDAR, imagery, etc.). Artificial intelligence will leverage years of user-extracted and QC’d data for training up models that will streamline the feature extraction workflow into a mere QA exercise. The ability to scan a road corridor during the day, process the data overnight, and provide the results the next morning will all be features of interest being identified with a 90% accuracy that will revolutionize the industry.”
Sandor Laszlo
Sandor Laszlo, PE
Regional Manager Technology, Geospatial

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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