Improving infrastructure service and access for communities
Dr. Kasey M. Faust
Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
University of Texas at Austin
The provision of water is threatened by aging and decaying water infrastructure systems (WIS), insufficient access, lack of funding for capital projects, workforce constraints, and exposure to frequent and severe hazards. To address these urgent challenges, I study WIS through a sociotechnical systems lens to improve the delivery of safe and reliable water services. My work advances our understanding of WIS resiliency and proposes novel physical, managerial, and operational solutions. Questions posed are impact-driven to support decision-making around critical and emerging challenges for sustainable projects, improved access, and equitable services.
Traditionally, WIS are approached solely as engineered systems. I posit that WIS are sociotechnical systems. WIS performance is shaped by each unique operating environment that includes the human capital (e.g., workforce knowledge), regulations, social needs, cultural and local norms, and the wider institutional context. To address the complex problems facing WIS, I bridge two seemingly disparate disciplines— construction and water. Through construction engineering, I bring technical, organizational, and business knowledge to creatively plan, construct, and manage WIS. Through water resources engineering, I bring knowledge surrounding the operations and maintenance of WIS, such as the hydraulics of distributions systems, workforce needs, and technical and regulatory requirements.
I primarily explore sociotechnical WIS and their ability to respond or adapt to changing operating conditions or extreme events (acute, protracted, or chronic stressors). I am interested in the technical performance of WIS when these systems operate in contexts that no longer align with the system’s original, intended operating environment. Fundamentally, this work targets equity and inclusion as it relates to the built environment. Oftentimes, the planning, management, and operations of utilities do not consider inequities between spatially distributed community members or have disproportional negative impacts on the most vulnerable members of society.
A secondary research area I have developed focuses on engineering solutions for sociotechnical challenges faced in capital projects. This work seeks to improve project performance through sustainable project implementation. Here, I focus on how the operating environment of each construction project—workforce constraints, external stakeholder considerations, or supply chain challenges, among others—can impact a project’s outcome.