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Population Dynamics in Planning for Infrastructure Needs

written by: John Moehring • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 1/14/2010

Planning for the construction of infrastructure systems is heavily dependent on population trends and population dynamics. As world-wide funding for these construction projects reaches into the trillions of dollars, better predictive indicators are needed.

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    Infrastructure Projects And Funding

    Infrastructure, the fundamental organizational systems required for the success of developed civilizations, takes time and funding to construct and maintain. These systems include roads, public transit, schools, bridges, emergency depots and supplies, railroads, telecommunications, airports, fresh water supplies, storm water and sewer systems, public buildings, levees, power grids, and ports. All of which require funded construction projects to produce and periodically improve. Population dynamics play a large role in determining construction trends for these projects. As population trends indicate growth, decline, or shifts from region to region the demand on the existing (or in some cases, non-existent) infrastructure changes as well.

    So how does a local department of infrastructure and planning account for trends in population growth? What is the national government’s role in infrastructure planning? How are construction trends impacted by changes in population growth? These are vexing questions for the construction industry, as planning for opportunities in infrastructure development is a multi-trillion dollar exercise.

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    Predicting Population Trends

    One method of predicting construction demand is to monitor proposed government funding for infrastructure improvements. While a national government’s budget may include items for transportation projects, federal emergency projects, federal government buildings and facilities, power grids and other systems which may impact an entire country, most of the accessible funding is found at the local government level. A major drawback to this approach is the unpredictability of revenues collected and distributed by government bodies. Politics and economic turmoil can change proposed funding for construction in a matter of months, as the all too recent developments in the world wide economic and political landscape has shown.

    Census statistics are another way of predicting future construction demand. Presumably, where populations are increasing, stagnant, or decreasing, so goes the demand for infrastructure construction. Using these statistics has little short term value, however, as census data is usually not collected on a yearly basis. They may, however, be utilized at a regional level to broadly guide longer term master planned developments, which can be refined at the local level as the opportunity arises.

    Monitoring moving supplies, such as cardboard boxes and truck rentals, driver’s license applications, travel visas, public school enrollments, and other artifacts of the growth, decline, or relocation processes are better short term indicators of changes in population requiring infrastructure consideration. These data sources can indicate trends over a period of months instead of years, which may allow planning for construction project bids to proceed in a more timely manner.

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    The Future Infrastructure Trends

    Clearly there is not a single, precise method to predict population dynamics and its impact on future trends for infrastructure construction demand. Even recent history shows that what goes up comes down, and vice versa, in a most unpredictable manner. And consequently the impact on infrastructure construction demand still requires a fortune teller’s vision to predict.

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    About The Author:

    John Moehring is a practicing Engineering Technologist in civil, geological, biological, and electrical engineering fields. And one of these days he may actually get it right.

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