Mapping What Matters Underneath Cities

All too often, city residents ignore what happens underneath their feet, realizing after an unexpected explosion or other incident, the sheer amount of design, construction and maintenance talent supporting energy and infrastructure layers that are the foundation of our above-ground lifestyles, businesses and environments.

The engineering and navigation of sub-surface operations, rights-of-way and easements is an archeology of municipal records, archiving the civilization of urban spaces.  All too often, such records are scattered, in public and private collections, subject to being lost, mishandled, unauthenticated or simply forgotten.

When the emergency happens, multiple agencies of federal, state and local government, utilities, commercial and residential property owners, insurers and others get involved to re-generate collective memory of what broke, what is worth fixing to status quo ante, and what would be best replaced with newer, more resilient infrastructure and technology.  Reconstruction is delayed because of the information that is missing or needs to be revalidated.  Insurance settlements and new premium rates reflect the information delays and asymmetries.

Transparency tools, such as building information models geospatially organized like a three-ring binder to align with a shared accurate street base map can start the process of planning for more sustainable and resilient systems. In turn, the models permit stress-tests and aging scenarios that improve collaborative reconstruction of sub-surface systems, and even identify vacant vault space or recyclable heat and water that can be used by smart buildings to reduce energy costs and environmental impacts.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, aa Lecturer at Stanford University's Department of Management Science & Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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