Imagine the Future 2017

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Program Agenda


Keynote Speaker

Track Facilitators

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A George Mason University Engineering Symposium
October 8-9, 2017
Fairfax, VA Campus

The Imagine the Future Symposium Series is held by the Volgenau School of Engineering at George Mason University. The symposia aim at incubating innovation in conceiving the built environment (the fabric of society) of the future and pushing the frontiers of our infrastructure systems for an interconnected world. Imagine the Future Symposium 2017 is a participatory event that will bring together infrastructure owners/operators, local governments, civil engineers, architects, urban planners, sociologists, community activists, academicians and/or others who help design, shape, operate, maintain and protect our built world. Through tracks involving visionary lectures, demonstrations, experiential activities and interactive dialogue, teams will come to consensus on multiple visions for the future of interconnected infrastructure. The outcome of the symposium will be a compendium of innovative visions, with the best to be rendered by an artist and documented for dissemination.

The Imagine Symposium is made possible by the generous support of the Bill and Eleanor Hazel Endowed Chair in Infrastructure Engineering.


Sunday, October 8, 6:00pm-8:30pm, George's in the Johnson Center

Registration, cocktails and opening dinner with keynote speaker Thomas Bock.

Monday, October 9, 8:30am-5:30pm

  Check in with coffee and continental breakfast
  Morning introduction
  Track 1: Immersive Mixed Reality
  Track 2: Cognitive Infrastructure Systems
  Coffee & tea break
  Track 3: Multipurpose Infrastructure
  Track 4: A World without Borders
  Lunch at Ike’s Backroom
  Afternoon introduction
  Track 5: Space-Age Construction
  Track 6: The Circle of Life
  Coffee & tea break and The Future of the Built Environment Hackathon


Track 1: Emerging Technologies and Immersive Mixed Reality (Facilitators – Scott Aldridge and Matthew Harraka, CDM Smith)

We are at the forefront of a new technological era – the era of the Internet of Things, low-cost ubiquitous sensors, 3-D intelligent models, augmented reality, driverless cars, flying cars, and more. Our built environment has adapted to these new inventions, but would we have designed the built infrastructure the same way if we were starting from scratch with these capabilities at hand? Can we construct, operate or maintain it differently by exploiting these technologies in new ways? What roles might automation play beyond automation in construction and automated driving? Have an opportunity to experience CDM Smiths Immersive mixed reality collaboration platform.

Track 2: Cognitive Infrastructure Systems (Facilitator – Rahul Nair, IBM Research Ireland)

Advancements in sensing and machine learning/artificial intelligence technologies, furthered by the Internet-of-Things, create new possibilities for operating and maintaining infrastructure systems. They enable computer-supported human sensing and diagnosis. They are becoming cognitive systems. How might these new capabilities reshape our approach to designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating these systems? Do these capabilities enable new services? How might we take advantage of these advancements to envision new modes of service delivery for our critical lifelines?

Track 3: Multipurpose Infrastructure (Facilitator – Lidia Berger, Dewberry; Judy Feldman, National Mall Coalition)

From Malaysia’s Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel to a proposed National Mall Underground, a subterranean parking and stormwater detention system design for Washington, D.C., multipurpose structures offer novel, cost- and space-effective solutions. Less dramatic examples include dams that are designed for two or more typical roles (including storage, power generation, flood control and recreation), or bomb shelters that are used for group activities, parking or storage. Will the Internet-of-Things create new opportunities in this realm? Can we imagine other pairings or opportunities for exploiting spare capacity? What role will multipurpose structures play in the future?

Track 4: A World without Borders (Facilitator – Lauren Gardner, University of New South Wales)

A long-distance call is a term our youth have never learned. We can eat strawberries any time of year. Our phones can translate hundreds of languages. There are people who retire and live on cruise ships. Never have our geographic boundaries been fuzzier and our earth more connected. This connectedness, however, opens us up to risk. Human and animal hosts infected with new and old diseases can be transferred around the globe in a matter of hours via planes. Vectors, e.g. third party hosts such as mosquitoes, are transported coast to coast via cargo ships. The vast amount of opportunities available to introduce and spread biological agents through our infrastructure (pipelines, trucks, transit,…) makes containment extremely difficult. In this session, we will explore the potential harm posed to humans by contagion processes, and discuss possible infrastructure designs that may mitigate some of these risks.

Track 5: Space-Age Construction (Facilitator – Priscilla Nelson, Colorado School of Mines)

The U.S. has been a leader in space travel, and made a conscious effort to invest in a space mission. What if the U.S. or other countries were to put the same type of resources behind infrastructure construction? What might be the goals of such a program? Would we aim for fully-automated building construction to eliminate worker safety issues, reduce costs and speed up project delivery? Would faster, cheaper tunneling be the focus? Would we want to exploit 3-D printing technologies for building materials? How would this change our thinking about the future of the built environment? If we could build a tunnel at low cost, what might society look like? What would we want it to look like?

Track 6: The Circle of Life (Facilitator – Shabtai Isaac, Ben Gurion University)

In much of the world, we design and build considering only the cost of the construction and possibly maintenance costs. Concerns about the costs (monetary, environmental, resource usage,…) of later repurposing or demolition are put off. How would we design and build if we were forced to bear the burden of cost for the whole life cycle? Is there a life-cycle counterpart to green buildings? Would these buildings be adaptable or have more flexible designs for change in purpose? Might origami structures have a role? How does starting our design with a community vision in mind change how we design and built? Do we have other ideas like the zero-net energy concept that might guide the community’s goals in their construction/demolition?

Team Activities and Final Outcome:

Group Activities and Final Outcome: At the end of the day, small groups will create proposals for the final outcome discussion. In the final hour, all symposium members will work together on one competitively selected, symposium-wide outcome. The artist will render this idea for the final report and poster.

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Keynote Speaker

Thomas BockThomas Bock is a professor of building realization and robotics at Technische Universität München (TUM). He completed his education in architecture at Stuttgart University in Germany, in engineering at IIT in Chicago as a Fulbright Scholar and in construction automation and robotics at University of Tokyo in Japan. He spent 10 years abroad mostly in the EU, USA and Japan. He holds a US FAA commercial pilot license with IFR and MEL ratings. Professionally he worked in the prefabrication industry for precast concrete elements in Germany and Iran, designed and built in Germany, Spain and Costa Rica. Academically, for over 35 years, he focuses on automation and robotics in building construction, from planning, prefabrication, on site production and utilization to reorganization and building deconstruction phases. He started the national French commission “robotique en BTP” in 1989 as “poste rouge” employee at CNRS, was involved in the development of 50+ robotic systems for stationary production of modules made in concrete-masonry- timber- steel, on site robotic systems, automated construction and deconstruction sites and mechatronic building subsystems for daily life/work support. He is a member of several boards of directors of international associations and several international academies in Europe, the Americas and Asia. He has consulted to several international ministries and evaluates research projects for various international funding institutions. He holds honorary doctor and professorship degrees and visiting professorships. Professor Bock serves on several editorial boards, heads various working commissions and groups of international research organizations, authored and co-authored 450 articles and most recently a five-volume Construction Robotics handbook series through Cambridge University Press.

The Cambridge Handbooks on Construction Robotics

handbook 1  handbook 2  handbook 3  handbook4  handbook5

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Track Facilitators

Scott AldridgeScott Aldridge leads the Innovation and Disruptive Technology group at CDM Smith. CDM Smith is an early innovator in immersive mixed reality for Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) and Mr. Aldridge is leading the firm’s application of immersive collaboration services where multiple users of the Microsoft HoloLens, regardless of location, can have a shared at scale holographic experience with additional participants. Mr. Aldridge has a BS in Computer Science and 25 years of experience working with disruptive digital technologies. He works with the firm and its clients to harness the power of this mixed reality technology that can help design, build and operate infrastructure assets faster and more efficiently, and speaks extensively on this topic at summits and technical meetings.

Lidia BergerLidia Berger serves as the National Sustainability Director at Dewberry, providing frameworks for sustainable strategies and programs, driving Dewberry’s sustainability efforts and technical leadership. Her areas of expertise are focused on innovative sustainable design solutions and sustainable return on investment process, incorporating the triple bottom line thinking, a topic on which she is a nationally known speaker. Ms. Berger is a founding member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s National Capital Region Chapter. She was involved in the development of the LEED-CI rating system and served on the LEED-EB Core Committee. She was named a LEED Fellow in the Inaugural Class of 2011. She served on the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Economics Committee formed to introduce economic indicators into Envision™ rating system. Ms. Berger holds a Master of Environmental Management Degree from Duke University and is LEED AP BD+C and LEED AP O+M accredited.

Judy FeldmanJudy Scott Feldman, PhD, a native Washingtonian, is a founder and chair of the National Mall Coalition, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization of architects, historians, urban planners and concerned citizens that advocates comprehensive, visionary planning for the Mall to ensure the vitality, beauty, and continued active role of this stage for Democracy in the capital and in American life. She is a frequent lecturer on Mall history and policy matters and has been quoted in local and national media on Mall topics, including a recent article in Rolling Stone Magazine about the threat of devastating flooding in Washington, DC. For her work with the National Mall Coalition, Dr. Feldman received the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations Award in 2005 and the Committee of 100 on the Federal City Life Time Vision Award in 2011.

Lauren GardnerLauren Gardner (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW, member of the Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI), and a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW. Her primary research interest is in the use of network modelling to integrate transport systems, social contact networks, and epidemiology, in efforts to understand the role of mobility in the spread of infectious diseases. She has published work on a range of infectious diseases, including Zika, dengue, MERS-CoV, avian influenza, and seasonal influenza, as well as conducted network modelling applications across a broad range of transport engineering topics.

Matthew Harraka Matthew Harraka, CM-BIM (CDM Smith) is a Regional VDC Manager brings his expertise in Autodesk Suite, multiple gaming engines, Building Information Modeling, and a variety of field instruments from GPS Survey systems to Robotic Total Stations to construction and asset management. He is a driving force behind the CDM Smith VDC Program and use of Disruptive Technology. He works with the first self-contained Holographic computer, the Microsoft HoloLens, and has extensive experience in virtual reality using the HTC Vive and oculus Rift to develop experiences for clients and project staff to review their projects in a Virtual Reality Environment.

Shabtai IsaacShabtai Isaac completed a B.Arch degree at the Technion, Israel, and practiced as an architect, mainly in the design of missile and earthquake-resilient healthcare facilities. He then completed a PhD in Civil Engineering at the Technion, Israel, and is currently assistant professor (“lecturer”) in the Department of Structural Engineering, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Dr. Isaac’s research focuses on the development of models and tools for planning and managing construction projects, which utilize Building Information Modeling, graph-theoretic algorithms and sensing technologies. He is a recipient of a number of research grants, including a grant from the European Commission for the development of Net Zero Energy settlements. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Association for Automation and Robotics in Construction, and sits on the scientific committees of the annual Creative Construction Conferences and of the International Symposia on Automation and Robotics in Construction.

Raul Nair Rahul Nair, Ph.D. is a Research Staff Member at IBM Research - Ireland in Dublin since 2012 specializing in technology research and development for mobility applications. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park and has co-authored more than 40 scientific publications. He was previously with the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology, where he developed performance management systems based on probe data for the Federal Highway Administration and Maryland State Highway departments. In his current applied research role, he engages with stakeholders globally to identify requirements, develop impactful solutions, and technology transfer to the market. Rahul is also interested in growth market challenges. His work on AllAboard - a system for public transport planning based on telecom data - won the Data4Development challenge award in 2013.

Priscilla NelsonPriscilla Nelson (PhD, Cornell University) is Professor and Head of Mining Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. She previously was Provost at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, program director and senior advisor at the US National Science Foundation, and Professor in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. She has an international reputation in geological and rock engineering, and has been involved in the underground construction industry for over 35 years, including her current appointment as Associate Director of the US DOT University Research Center on Underground Transportation Infrastructure. She worked for the US DOE and the State of Texas on the Superconducting Super Collider project, and served two terms on the U. S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, appointed by President Clinton. Dr. Nelson has published more than 150 technical and scientific publications, and is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), former president of the Geo-Institute of ASCE, a lifetime member and first president and Fellow of the American Rock Mechanics Association, and Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Nelson has received many honors and awards. She was identified as one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining and also was appointed to the Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering of the National Academies. In 2016, she was appointed Chair of the Mine Safety and Health Research Advisory Committee of NIOSH/CDC.

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Volgenau LogoOrganized by: Elise Miller-Hooks, Professor
Bill & Eleanor Hazel Endowed Chair in Infrastructure Engineering
Sid & Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental & Infrastructure Engineering
George Mason University