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METIS Center

Infrastructure and COVID-19

Infrastructure are critical in ensuring that basic needs are met during the Coronavirus pandemic, and that the world adapts and transforms after. Metis Center, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and Arizona State University faculty broadly are leading efforts to understand the implications of the pandemic on infrastructure, and how we approach infrastructure both during and after the pandemic. This library consists of emerging thought pieces and content that Metis Center faculty consider to be helpful in thinking about infrastructure implications of the pandemic.

Applying Engineering Lessons to Pandemic Management

May 14, 2020 | Brad Allenby & Mikhail V. Chester (Issues)

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced challenges that are commonly dealt with in engineering in the United State. Policy responses to the pandemic could be improved with lessons from other types of infrastructure, and by investing in “efficient resilience” when it comes to medical infrastructure. Engineering professors Braden Allenby and Mikhail Chester take a close look at how engineered systems such as electric power, communications and transportation infrastructures deal with peak load, disaster recover, and partial failure to offer ideas for building greater resilience into the US medical system and infrastructures that provide critical services during pandemics.


Learning from Engineers

April 21, 2020 | Brad Allenby & Mikhail V. Chester (Issues)

Like many professors, who have been trying to explain (online, of course) to our undergraduate engineering students the United States’ botched response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And they rightfully raise the question, So what would you have done? In the course of this dialogue, we have realized two things. One, COVID-19 may be a new pandemic, but it’s also a variation of a basic engineering challenge that extends across all infrastructure. Two, experience drawn from existing engineering practices and institutions may help the nation do much better than it has so far.

Video: What does a post-covid-19 world look like?

April 20, 2020 | Brad Allenby & David Manuel-Navarrete (YouTube Channel, IASC Commons)

A webinar panel series entitled “Don’t Was the Covid-19 Crisis: Reflection on Resilience and the Commons Revealed by Covid-19” co-hosted by the International Association for Study of the Commons (IASC), the Resilience Alliance, and the Center for Behavior Institutions and the Environment (CBIE). Organized by Marco Janssen, Marty Anderies, and Mike Schoon.


Our first panel discussion of the series “What does a post-covid-19 world look like?” featuring Brad Allenby and David Manuel-Navarrete.

The Long View: COVID-19 Impacts on Human Activity-Travel Patterns (Part 2)

April 20, 2020 | Ram Pendyala (

An arguement can be made that people are learning and adapting to a whole new way of living — one that is characterized by low levels of personal travel, high degree of remote/virtual activity engagement (including working and schooling), and extensive use of online shopping and ordering to enable delivery of goods, services, and food. This experience, and the awareness of a whole new lifestyle that it has engenedered, may lead to significant behavioral changes that advance a more sustainable future. While the argument is appealing and only time will tell the extent to which this will hold true, we probably can’t and shouldn’t count on it happening to any significant degree. Here’s why …

The Long View: COVID-19 Impacts on Human Activity-Travel Patterns (Part 1)

April 19, 2020 | Ram Pendyala (

The bottom line is that the virus has brought about unprecedented changes to communities and lifestyles, upending traditional ways in which the vast majority of people have conducted business, engaged in work, and shopped for goods and services for the better part of the century. Perhaps it can be argued that, “once we get through this, cities as we know them will be changed forever”.

What COVID-19 Has Taught US About Our Infrastructure

April 14, 2020 | Brad Allenby, Mikhail V. Chester & Thaddeus Miller (ASCE News)

Brad Allenby, Ph.D., Aff.M.ASCE, Mikhail V. Chester, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE, and Thaddeus Miller, Ph.D., are engineers, professors and groundbreaking researchers at Arizona State University. In today’s Member Voice article, they write about how the COVID-19 pandemic has already taught us important lessons about adapting and transforming our infrastructure systems.

Fulton Schools faculty take a constructive view of COVID-19

April 6, 2020 | Gary Werner (ASU Now)

According to the governor’s order, essential activities range from health care provision to food distribution — and also construction. Consequently, work continues on building sites across the state, but there are questions about worker safety and future prospects for the industry.

The Curve is Already Flat

April 5, 2020 | AJ Kay & Thomas P. Seager (The Morozko Forge)

More than half of the U.S. states have instituted lockdown measures in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These policies are justified as an effort to “flatten the curve,” a phrase coined by Dr. Howard Markel, a pediatrician, and professor of medical history at the University of Michigan.

Video: Moral Perspectives on the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 3, 2020 | David D. Woods, Sidney Dekker & Thomas P. Seager (YouTube Channel, ISSST Network)


The ISSST2020 video Keynote Conversation series with Woods, Seager, and Alderson is complete, and you can view the playlist on the ISSST YouTube Channel. The final installment, featuring Dr. Sidney Dekker, explores moral perspectives on COVID-19 response.

ASU, UA researchers look for traces of COVID-19 in Tempe and Tucson wastewater

April 2, 2020 | Paulina Pineda (Arizona Republic)

Arizona State University researchers in Tempe are looking for traces of COVID-19 in wastewater, which could serve as an early warning system of the virus’s spread in communities.

EPA releases a list of disinfectants that can help you fight the new coronavirus

April 1, 2020 | Debra Utacia Krol (Arizona Republic)

To help find the right products, the Environmental Protection Agency has released its latest list of disinfectants that meet the agency’s criteria for use against the new coronavirus. EPA recommends looking for the EPA registration number on the label, especially when examining products with brand names that differ from what’s on their list. Both commerical and consumer prodcuts are on the list.

CEE 400 Lecture: Earth Systems Engineering and Management, Covid-19 Perspectives

March 31, 2020 | Brad Allenby (ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering)

Dr. Allenby’s CEE 400 lecture discusses broadly the relationship of COVID-19 with Earth System Engineering and Management concepts. Recognizing what COVID-19 is and the implications on the human, natural and integrated systems, Dr. Allenby discusses how the perspective as an engineer is applicable to fighting the pandemic currently and in the future.

“Approching this as an engineer or technologist and you will get a different perspective on COVID-19… As a problem solver, you need to be able to fully engaged at the human level… But you also need to step back and lock at it objectively because looking at it objectively is where you begin to get answers and begin to understand what’s going on.


ASU Engineering Students, Faculty, and Staff Find Success in a New Digital Environment

March 30, 2020 | Monique Clement (ASU FullCircle)

The transition to distance learning likely has some students missing the daily interaction with their peers, faculty and other university staff. However, the online video conferencing tool Zoom helps bring facetime to digital classes, while the instant messaging platform Slack encourages conversation with the ASU community. Nontraditional tools like the livestreaming platform Twitch have even helped some instructors keep their classes engaging.

Could coronavirus permanently impact our ‘daily commute’ habits?

March 25, 2020 | Megan Thompson (Arizona Republic)

“Generally, traffic tracks with the economy.” said Ram Pendyala. “And so it’s a very positive thing to have people moving about, engaging and interacting and taking advantage of all the land use environment offers.”

How our cities can reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic

March 24, 2020 | Richard Florida & Steven Pedigo (Brookings)

As the dreaded coronavirus rips across the globe, city after city has locked down, transforming urban business centers, suburban malls, and other public spaces into ghost towns. This is not the first time this has happened—since time immemorial, cities have been epicenters of communicable diseases.

COVID-19 May Alter the Future of How We Navigate Work and Leisure

March 24, 2020 | Gary Werner (ASU FullCircle)

“Many people are working remotely as part of social distancing measures to combat COVID-19,” says Ram Pendyala, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University. “And that mandated isolation certainly has an impact on human activity. From a transportation perspective, it means reduced traffic and energy consumption, cleaner air and less weat and tear on our roads – all good things for sustainability”.

The Great Empty: Photographs by The New York Times

March 23, 2020 | Michael Kimmelman (NYC Times)

Today a different global calamity has made scarcity the necessary condition of humanity’s survival. Cafes along the Navigli in Milan hunker behind shutters along with the Milanese who used to sip aperos beside the canal. Times Square is a ghost town, as are the City of London and the Place de la Concorde in Paris during what used to be the morning rush.