Infrastructure Maintenance, Renewal, and Management Technology
It has long been said that we have transitioned from the age of infrastructure construction to the age of infrastructure use. Now, however, we are in a period in which we must manage our enormous aging infrastructure. The asset value of Japan's domestic infrastructure is approximately 800 trillion yen, and an enormous budget will be needed to continue maintaining and upgrading this infrastructure. For example, a recent study found that upgrade and repair costs for Japan's expressway infrastructure (which has an asset value of 45 trillion yen) will reach 3 trillion yen over the next 15 years, and the infrastructure upgrade and repair costs needed in the next 50 years are expected to reach 190 trillion yen. In order to dramatically reduce these costs while preserving safety, it is essential that we conduct not conventional ex post facto maintenance, in which measures are taken only after the damage has become severe, but preventive maintenance in which minor damage is discovered and repaired quickly.
Management that minimizes infrastructure life cycle costs is based on accurately determining the current status and inherent capability of the infrastructure, determining its future prospects and predicting its remaining life, establishing an order of priority based on these assessments, and then performing maintenance, repairs and upgrades in a timely fashion. Compared to designing and building new infrastructure, determining and predicting the current and future state of infrastructure involves difficult technical issues that span long time scales of 10 to 50 years. A variety of technologies must be fully mobilized to resolve these issues.
In the United States, the deaths and injuries caused by the collapses of the Silver Bridge, the Mianus River Bridge, and the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge, as well as by many other accidents have become a major issue. These accidents have occurred on the vast infrastructure that was constructed as a result of New Deal policies. Accordingly, asset management for entities that manage infrastructure, the introduction of monitoring technologies, and the development of new, more efficient and more advanced technologies are actively underway in an effort to promote infrastructure maintenance. In Europe as well, advanced sensors are being used to monitor critical infrastructure in multiple locations, and in most of these cases, preventive maintenance is being introduced with the aim of reducing maintenance costs.
Significance and Importance as Policy
In Japan, the infrastructure constructed during Japan's period of high-level economic growth continues to age, and there are concerns regarding the potential critical risks (as exemplified by the Sasago Tunnel ceiling collapse in 2012) and the potential for a dramatic increase in maintenance and upgrade costs. With the current difficult financial situation and the decrease in the number of experienced engineers, new technologies and systematic infrastructure management will be essential to prevent accidents and reduce the burden of maintenance and upgrades.
As noted in the Basic Plan for Extending the Service Life of Infrastructure, which was formulated in November 2013, and other plans relating to policy issues, Japan's future growth requires stable maintenance and improvement of infrastructure functions. The market for upgrades and repairs is becoming clearer, and the total investment for all 700,000 major repairs and upgrades currently underway on expressways in Japan is approximately 3 trillion yen. Under these circumstances, a system for maintaining and securing safe, sturdy infrastructure that is supported by the world’s most advanced ICRT, which combines ICT (Information and Communication Technology), and IRT (Information and Robot Technology) is a viable business model, and it can be developed as a maintenance industry that serves many fields and industries.
This field of infrastructure maintenance, upgrade and management includes some markets that, although they are becoming more clearly defined, remain unclear in major areas, and these markets are difficult for private sector companies to enter. In addition, local governments have absolutely no capacity for development. Therefore, it is very significant that this effort will be promoted by the national government. Moreover, the technologies developed by the relevant government ministries and agencies will be subjected to demonstration tests and verification tests at existing infrastructure work sites to verify their durability, stability, economic viability, etc. This will require an organization to ensure close collaboration among government ministries and agencies so that the test results can be used to develop practical technologies. In order to achieve this close collaboration among government ministries and agencies, it will be crucial for a Program Director to promote overall progress in each research and development area. For this reason, it is essential for the Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) to promote research and development.
Objectives and Targets
(a) Technical objectives
Match technical development "seeds" with maintenance-related needs and introduce new technologies at work sites in order to create systematized infrastructure management of a PDCA (Plan Do Check Action) cycle for maintenance and improve the level and efficiency of low-cost maintenance through preventive maintenance.
(b) Industrial objectives
Improve the efficiency of low-cost inspections, repairs, etc., and maintain critical infrastructure at a high level of maintenance through the use of sensors, robots, data management, nondestructive inspection technologies, remaining life prediction technologies, long service life technologies, etc., thereby creating an ongoing market for maintenance that is as attractive as the current market for construction. Seek methods for widely sharing quantified data by means of infrastructure management and establish a mechanism for further technological development by the private sector.
(c) Social objectives
Eliminate serious accidents caused by deterioration and damage sustained by critical infrastructure and aging infrastructure so that citizens have peace of mind. Reduce maintenance and upgrade expenditures by 20% from current levels. In addition, make sure that infrastructure performance guidelines and data that have been quantified (by means of infrastructure management based on new technologies such as ICRT) are shared with the general public to the greatest extent possible to ensure citizen involvement.
As a numerical target, by around FY 2020, 20% of the critical infrastructure and aging infrastructure within Japan should be covered by preventive maintenance through infrastructure management that is based on ICRT. This achievement should then be communicated internationally as an example of a successful solution to the common global problem of infrastructure aging.