Workshop explores the benefits of natural infrastructure

Attendees of the workshop all standing for a group pictureExperts in the field of natural infrastructure and resiliency from around the country gathered at the University of Georgia May 10 and 11 to explore the benefits, applications and opportunities of natural infrastructure as part of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) workshop.

The “Workshop on Benefits, Applications and Opportunities of Natural Infrastructure” featured opening remarks from University of Georgia (UGA) Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jack Hu, a briefing from Todd Bridges of the 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.

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,” said Brian Bledsoe, director of UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems and the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Resilient Infrastructure in UGA’s College of Engineering.

Over the two-day workshop, 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. Proceedings in brief from the workshop will be published by the National Academies in the coming months.

By Sarah Buckleitner | Photo by Mark Sorrow

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