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Systems Engineering and the Project Delivery Process in the Design and Construction of Built Infrastructure

Executive Summary

How can a systems engineering approach be applied to the project delivery process in the design and construction of built infrastructure? First, this paper articulates how infrastructure can be seen as a system of interest, a complex production system that is operated and delivered through enabling production and work systems. Second, it considers systems operation, where research in the systems engineering discipline shifts attention from ‘operator error’ (and root causes) to the systemic accident factors. Third, it considers systems development and how a formal model of the development process, the classic V diagram, differs from the standard representations of production used in the design and construction of built infrastructure, emphasizing systems architecture and systems integration. Fourth, it considers production systems in terms of the locus, organization and activities involved in fabrication and assembly. Fifth, it considers infrastructure systems from the broader perspectives of long-term ownership and operation of assets, critical infrastructure and a shift from a linear to circular economy. The paper concludes by discussing where further research is needed. This is both in relation to the emergent properties, flows of physical material, information and costs associated with infrastructure as a complex product system and in relation to the enabling work systems for production (design and construction) and for operation, maintenance and disassembly.

Keywords: Systems Engineering; Production Systems; Infrastructure; Project Delivery

Author: 
Jennifer Whyte, Ph.D., Imperial College London, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, j.whyte@imperial.ac.uk



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