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Gaining a Digital Edge in the Infrastructure Decade

Mar 2022

Nearmap high-resolution imagery and property data provide the tools to secure IIJA funding for infrastructure projects with IIJA investment.

Mar 2022

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021 will pump significant public investment into U.S. infrastructure in the foreseeable future, including transportation networks, ports, utilities, water infrastructure, electric grid modernization, airports and more. The bill adds $550 billion in new spending dur­ing the next five years, divided between improving the surface-transportation network ($284 billion) and enhanc­ing other core infrastructure ($266 billion).
These charts provide a brief breakdown of how the funds will be allocated:

Investing in Resilience

The IIJA is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in modern U.S. history. With close to $145 billion in damages, for example, 2021 was the third-costliest year on record for weather disasters. The IIJA specifically allocates $47.2 billion to help communities prepare for the unprecedented rise of weather disasters such as fires, floods, storms, droughts, and incidents related to climate change. This investment in resilience also involves equipping critical infrastructure assets with cybersecurity systems capable of withstanding cyberattacks. In addition, the bill funds research aimed at improving the understanding of extreme weather effects on infrastructure, which will enable innovative solutions that can mitigate some of these effects. Further funding is provided to ensure the resilience and reliability of the energy grid through newer programs.

Building Community Equity

The IIJA promises to deliver a needed boost to communities in the nation’s underserved areas and tribal regions by investing billions to expand their access to clean drinking water for households, businesses, schools, and childcare centers. From rural towns to struggling cities, the bill will fund improvements to water infrastructure and eliminate lead service pipes. The legislation also aims to provide more than 30 million Americans access to broadband infrastructure to help lower prices for internet service.

Grid Modernization

A key focus of the infrastructure bill is grid modernization; the transition to more renewable power sources creates challenges for transmission and distribution. The bill sets aside $73 billion to encourage innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure to increase reliability. The proposed changes will be implemented through states by private and publicly regulated entities on a cost-shared basis. In addition, thousands of miles of new high-power lines will be installed to facilitate the expansion of access to renewable and clean energy, resulting in lowered transmission costs. The bill boosts the development, demonstration, and deployment of cutting-edge clean-energy technologies to accelerate our transition to a zero-emission economy.

Electric Vehicle Fleets

The IIJA includes $7.5 billion to establish the first national charging network for electric vehicles and it establishes a new Carbon Reduction Program to reduce transportation emissions. The IIJA has doubled down on the future of electric transport through state funding for the acquisition and installation of EV infrastructure as well as operations and maintenance. The investment also establishes a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy to coordinate work on EV infrastructure. New programs have been added, including purchasing or leasing low- or no-emission buses and acquiring low- or no-emission buses with a leased power source.

How Modern AEC Firms Are Rising to the Challenges and Opportunities

The IIJA provides major opportunities for AEC firms to bid on federally funded infrastructure projects. The bill contains unique requirements that will need to be con­sidered during the proposal, bid, and build phases, includ­ing the analysis of project profitability, development of procurement strategies, and the contracting method in which the work is carried out and invoiced. Digital transformation will provide a competitive and pragmatic edge during each phase for participating companies and the government depart­ments for which they serve.

Five Digital-Transformation ‘Must Haves’ to Win Infrastructure Contracts

1. Interconnected Data for a Single Source of Truth
Data is just as essential in the field as it is in planning, design, and high-level decision-making. This is especially true for large-scale infrastructure projects, which require teams to be more data-driven to meet their goals and schedules. The sheer scale and velocity of infrastructure projects that need to be completed as part of the IIJA will require a higher level of data harmonization among different government departments and private-sector companies.
2. Automation
The IIJA funding will enable increased processing power and speed of enhanced connectivity for data processing. Companies that automate workflows and manual processes such as data entry, site surveying, assessments, or scope changes within their systems—will significantly improve productivity and cost savings.
3. Interoperable Digital Solutions
The COVID-19 pandemic massively accelerated the integration of daily digital workflows—from onsite field visits to asset monitoring to project reporting and analytics. Interoperability among new and existing systems enhances a firm’s digital ecosystem and creates efficiencies, having a unified single source of truth in their data sets for project teams during each phase of the project lifecycle.
4. Access to Digital Talent
Skilled employees are vital for technology-led margin expansion. New roles such as chief digital officer, data strate­gist, and BIM product manager will need to be created for com­panies to properly manage and implement a digital transforma­tion strategy. Forward-thinking engineering and construction companies should ideate and execute partnerships with local universities to create an immersive and pragmatic training course to enhance recruitment pipelines. This will be critical as the talent and labor shortages brought forth by the pan­demic persist long into the future generation of workers.
5. Cybersecurity Competence and Compliance
The construction industry is known to be behind the curve in data security; and with more companies moving to remote work, the risks of falling victim to cybersecu­rity breaches are higher than ever. Companies that don’t invest in smart internal controls and cyber hygiene around data privacy may not be able to survive modern request for proposal (RFP) vetting processes put forth by government departments as mandated by the IIJA. From a national-security perspective, engineering and construction firms involved in the building of sensitive and critical infrastruc­ture for emergency management, energy grids, or airports need to be highly resilient against cyberattacks that may jeopardize their functionality.
In the interconnected world of infrastructure, shared location intelligence serves as the single source of truth for all public and private stakeholders. Fed by aerial imagery and geospatial analytics, location intelligence technology is driving digital transformation for every AEC firm’s daily workflow, including virtual site surveying, optimizing construction bids, building information modeling, and accelerated post-disaster response for communities. For infrastructure-focused organizations, high-quality, current, and accurate aerial imagery helps AEC designs and proposals successfully secure funding through development planning, real-time analytics, and 3D modeling.

Digital Edge Through Location Intelligence

Fed by aerial imagery and geospatial analytics, location intelligence technology is driving digital transformation for every AEC firm’s daily workflow, from virtual site survey­ing to optimizing construction bids, BIM, and accelerated post-disaster response for communities.
High-quality aerial imagery with geospatial loca­tion intelligence from industry leaders such as Nearmap remotely provides historical vertical and 3D views as well as AI layers that can be integrated into leading GIS and CAD platforms. This integration helps organizations in the architectural, engineering, and construction space accelerate their digital transformation journeys. Nearmap’s comprehensive suite of feature-rich aerial imagery drives project efficiency by reducing unnecessary site visits in the early stages of the project lifecycle. This technology can be utilized for a wide range of other digital transformation initiatives, including:
  • Feasibility studies
  • Remote field assessment
  • Concept development
  • 3D visualization
  • Project estimation and proposal
  • Construction documents and reports
  • Project logistics and site planning
  • Stakeholder communication