Research Training Group

Critical Infrastructures: Construction, Functional Failures, and Protection in Cities

The Research Training Group “Critical Infrastructures: Construction, Function Failures, and Protection in Cities” (Research Training Group 2222), established on October 1, 2016, at the Technical University of Darmstadt, brings together historians, infrastructure and spatial planners, civil engineers, philosophers, political scientists, architects and computer scientists.

The Research Training Group (RTG) analyzes critical infrastructures in cities—the networked systems that supply urban conglomerations with energy, water, communication facilities, and transportation services, and which treat and dispose of waste- and storm water. Those infrastructures have become the backbone of modern cities, and their failure can trigger dramatic crises. In recent years, the growing vulnerability that seems to accompany the increased dependency on infrastructural networks has been a controversial topic. That controversy is due not only to multiple external threats such as natural disasters, terrorist and cyber-attacks, but also to the growing complexity and increasing interdependencies of infrastructure systems.

The basic assumption of the RTG is that critical infrastructures are highly context-dependent both in temporal and spatial terms, and that they also manifest multiple spatial and temporal relations. The group’s aim is to understand and to explain these complex systems in their spatiality and temporality, and to explore urban practices of planning, of preventing interruptions and of preparing for them.

At the Institute of Numerical Methods and Informatics in Civil Engineering the focus is research on digital methods for modeling, simulation, and analysis of critical infrastructures for interdisciplinary engineering safety services in the urban context. A particular focus is on the digital building modeling with BIM (Building Information Modeling), Sensor Technology, Virtual and Augmented Reality as well as Serious Gaming. Special consideration relies on the question of how prevention of and preparedness for urban infrastructure failures can be organized and which spatial and temporal aspects play a role in the protection of critical infrastructures.

In the RTG, Ph.D candidates work together and under the guidance of professors and associate researchers on their individual promotions, which are all joined together by the overarching theme of the group and similar approaches. A special feature of the RTG is close cooperation and relationships with practice partners and collaboration with four prestigious research institutes in other European countries.

Key Concepts of Critical Infrastructure Research

The discussion about critical infrastructures is dominated by the use of the interlinked terms “criticality”, “vulnerability”, “resilience” and “preparedness and prevention”. These terms can be found both in public discourse and in scientific debates. They are often used both normatively and descriptively. The doctoral students of the interdisciplinary research training group KRITIS systematically examine these concepts and discuss the interrelationships. They also provide a critical overview of the benefits and limitations of these concepts as well as further questions that arise during their consideration. Informed by the approaches of science and technology research, they concentrate on the interrelationships between technology and society. The aim of the book is to create a common basis for interdisciplinary infrastructure research. The authors come from the fields of history, philosophy, political science, civil engineering, urban and regional planning and computer science.

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What is Criticality?

Critical infrastructure protection is a widely accepted task. There is usually also consensus on what is meant by 'critical'. On the other hand, there is a research landscape that has so far hardly devoted itself to the concept of criticality. The contributors to this volume attempt to close this gap by approaching the concept from various disciplines such as history, philosophy, sociology, engineering and risk and crisis management: What does criticality really mean? Which traditions, which hidden implications, which political agendas are behind the concept? Is it suitable for scientific research – and if so, in which disciplines?

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  Name Contact
Luisa Kautzmann M.Sc.
+49 6151 16-21331
Jens Wala M.Sc.
+49 6151 16-24827