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Melodie Yashar, director of building design and building performance at ICON, appeared on a recent episode of ASCE Interchange discussing the future of infrastructure.

New materials. New systems. New horizons.

Yashar talks about everything from 3D-printed structures to what a colony on Mars will entail. 

Here are some key takeaways:

Advanced materials advance possibilities

“When we’re talking about the future of infrastructure and how additive manufacturing has transformed the building industry,” Yashar said during the Interchange interview, “what I really see as the true value-add is that 3D printing and additive manufacturing provides a unified structural and material system that is essentially a one-stop shop – to introduce efficiencies in the construction time and to minimize the risks of labor shortages.

“This type of systems-level thinking relative to how a material can be transformed into a structural system in a design-build manner is going to radically revolutionize the way that infrastructure is developed in the future.”

screen shot from ASCE Interchange interview
We are an interplanetary species

“The aerospace sector has really democratized and opened up to include multiple industry and commercial leaders that are paving the way for more new transportation to space and even new habitation systems in space,” Yashar said.

“I really think that civil and structural and other disciplines of engineers are going to be critical for how these infrastructure systems and transportation systems integrate in off-world scenarios with the other systems that we’re going to need to deploy to realize an initial settlement or a base on the moon or Mars.

“How exactly power systems and infrastructure systems come together – in addition to those that I’m thinking about in my research relative to automotive construction – is a huge endeavor that is going to involve multisector innovation and collaboration to become real. It’s an exciting time for engineers of all sorts to become involved.

“… It’s certainly not going to happen all at once, but I believe research indicates that we are on our way – currently with NASA’s Artemis program – to realize permanent infrastructure, as well as eventually a permanent human presence on the moon within this next decade.”

Sustainability isn’t only a priority on Earth

“Some of the most dire needs relative to developing the first colony on Mars will include how do we get our power, and from there, how do we have a sustainable resource for water for the crew or for introducing air and waste remediation,” Yashar said. “All of these systems at first are going to be launched from Earth, but we have to be thinking about how we can introduce sustainable solutions for those systems to operate in the long term if we are going to actually achieve and accomplish a permanent human presence. … We have to be thinking about renewable resources for these needs and how we’re going to be utilizing the resources of the planet.”

Watch the entire ASCE Interchange conversation with Melodie Yashar.

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