Our third Future of Infrastructure report comes at a pivotal moment. Countries around the world are wrestling with an unprecedented global shock that knows no boundaries: coronavirus. We will recover, but nobody knows how long that will take. The only certainty is that there will be change.
As practitioners we must constantly analyze the future so that the infrastructure we build stands the test of time. A crisis of this magnitude will lead to deep shifts, some of them unexpected. Priorities will change, some of them for good. Our systems and structures will need to adapt. Resilience and innovation will be more important than ever.
As restrictions start to ease, attention will be focused on what needs to be done to ensure a safe return to work, education and eventually leisure activities. How should we travel? Where should we work? How should the spaces where we work and learn be organized?
Once coronavirus has been tamed, there will be new demands. Our health systems will have different wants and needs. Technological solutions that have helped us fight the virus and ease its economic consequences will lead to permanent changes, some of which are only just beginning.
On the policy side, attention is rightly focused on the immediate priorities of the health crisis and the related economic crash, but we should be wary of letting other considerations slide. If we are to emerge from this pandemic fit to tackle the other crisis – the climate emergency - we need to keep a lid on emissions. We must also continue to value the social impact of our infrastructure decisions, particularly if we are to help the most vulnerable in our societies – those who have been most impacted by coronavirus.
These considerations are addressed in our report.
History tells us that investment in infrastructure has an important role to play in helping economies get back on their feet. In the short term, it provides much-needed jobs, while strengthening the backbone of the economy for the long-term. With the right choices, infrastructure can help society emerge stronger from this crisis. At AECOM, we feel we have a duty to do everything in our power to ensure that it does.