The New Role of Construction, Infrastructure & Environment

The recent decades have seen a shift toward prioritizing economic growth through advanced industry (high-tech). This has taken place in most of the developed countries, including Israel. A consequence of this was the high priority given to technological universities. Although successful in bringing about impressive economic growth, this technology-based strategy resulted in some detrimental effects on the general wellbeing of the country – in Israel, as well as other developed countries – by increasing societal inequality, compromising the environment and leading to decay and gaps in the development of infrastructure in crucial areas such as transportation, water resources, air quality and energy. These issues are of particular concern in Israel because its density of population and rate of population growth are far higher than any other developed country. Natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes have drawn attention to the societal risks of decaying infrastructure and construction.

It has also become evident that economic growth cannot be sustained without adequate infrastructure and quality of life. These perceptions, both worldwide and in Israel, are now leading to new thoughts and insights on the need to prioritize construction and upgrading of national infrastructure. Emphasis is placed to the development and implementation of new technologies with special emphasis on life cycle assessment, which takes into account long term economic, environmental and social impacts; in other words, sustainable development.

In Israel, this trend is further augmented by a general political consensus, bridging all political parties, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved within the next few decades – hence Israel should see itself as a “marathon runner” and build a strategy for long term resilience.  Such resilience requires a strategy based not only on “national security” in the sense of strong defense capabilities and a strong growth of a knowledge based economy, but also societal resilience, which assures the well being, equality and quality of life of the general population and for generations to come.

The new Master Plan for Israel, recently approved as an official State of Israel Master Plan 35, reflects these concepts and is becoming the guide and driver for reinventing Israel as a modern country.  This calls for the construction of state-of-the-art infrastructure, assuring that a healthy balance between urban and green areas will be created, as well as an advanced and intelligent transportation system linking the periphery and urban centers. All of these are to be supported by safe and sustainable environmentally-friendly infrastructure and buildings.

The picture of the future set in “Israel 2020” project
(carried out at the Technion under the leadership of Professor Adam Mazor)
which served as the basis for Israel Master Plan 35

 

Large-scale projects are currently being planned and some have already begun. Total investment will amount to approx. NIS 70 billion ($15.6 b.) over the next 4 years. It is expected that in about 20 years, two-thirds of the infrastructure of Israel will be chronologically new. The challenge is to be ingenious enough to execute the enormous amount of infrastructure development facing us, so that it will be new not only chronologically, but also innovative in its technological & environmental sophistication. If successful, Israel will be a country whose capital stock is compatible with the challenges of the 21st century.
To meet these challenges, internationally and nationally, there is a need for new technologies based on an interdisciplinary approach able to achieve simultaneously elevated performance levels that meet user needs and social needs, as well as environmental & ecological constraints. Technological universities will be challenged to take the lead and be involved in the development of such technologies, as well as generating skilled scientists and engineers for the research and implementation of these technologies in large-scale and diversified projects.

Predicted infrastructure development indices in Israel
(from: “Israel 2020 to 2050”, Prof. A. Mazor, Neaman Institute)