Exploring the Benefits of Natural Infrastructure: NASEM Workshop Recap

On May 10th and 11th, experts in the field of natural infrastructure and resiliency from around the country gathered to explore the benefits, applications and opportunities of natural infrastructure as part of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) workshop.

Titled, “Workshop on Benefits, Applications and Opportunities of Natural Infrastructure,” the workshop featured opening remarks from University of Georgia (UGA) Provost Jack Hu, a briefing from Dr. Todd Bridges from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering With Nature Initiative, and keynotes from Mike Donahue, Vice President of AECOM, Jenniffer Santos-Hernandez, from the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, Shana Jones from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and Emily Corwin from Conservation International.

Provost Jack Hu and Dr. Todd Bridges chat in the minutes leading up to the workshop

The field of natural infrastructure recently rose to national attention with its inclusion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While one focus of the workshop was to build recognition and understanding amongst engineers and planners, discussion also covered non-traditional benefits of NI, policy and standard development, and equity. Geographies ranged from the coastline to the Great Plains to the mountains and covered natural infrastructure used to promote resiliency in both urban and rural settings.

“This event brought together many of the world’s top natural infrastructure experts and practitioners from the private and public sectors.  The presentations and conversations that happened at this workshop will undoubtedly advance understanding and the engineering practice of natural infrastructure for years to come,” Dr. Brian Bledsoe, IRIS Director, said of the workshop.

IRIS Director Brian Bledsoe (right) and Oluponmile Olonilua (left) from Texas Southern
University stand at the podium

During the two days, participants heard from economists, engineers, scientists, planners, NGOs, government organizations, industry partners and government contractors about how to take advantage of the opportunities that natural infrastructure presents to build resilience and climate change adaptation across geographic scales.

This workshop was hosted by the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems at the University of Georgia, with support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Stay tuned for a proceedings in brief, to be published by the National Academies, in the coming months.

Participants engaged in breakout groups during the workshop.