The Crisis of Infrastructure Resilience


The Clash of Blue and Green …and Red

Dr. Lewis J. Perelman
Presentation to The Economic Security Working Group U.S. Department of Commerce October 21, 2008
© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

© 2008, 2009 Lewis J. Perelman


Three Major Competing Agendas

• The Green Agenda: Sustainability • The Blue Agenda: Security • The Red Agenda: Solvency

© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

Overlaid on economic and cultural interests that traditionally have shaped infrastructure development, the rising demand for sweeping infrastructure renewal—even reinvention—is being driven three competing policy agendas. The demands of these agendas is a problem in three colors: green vs. blue vs. red. •The “green” agenda identifies itself with “Sustainability.” The green movement, as is widely understood, advocates environmental protection, resource conservation, “renewable” resources, and “green” buildings and infrastructure, among other things, especially “climate protection.” Its notion of “sustainability” commonly is associated with “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) as indicated by such metrics as the “triple bottom line” (meant to merge economic, environmental, and social welfare goals in corporate accounting). •The “blue” agenda is primarily focused on “Security,” including “Safety.” It embraces the demands for national and homeland security. Its mission starts from preventing or protecting against various hazards or threats against human security and extends to responding to attacks or disasters when they occur, and recovering from their consequences. The menu of blue concerns spans the spectrum of human anxieties, including: war, terrorism, violent crime, industrial accidents, infectious disease, and economic, social, or political disasters as well as all sorts of natural disaster. •The “red” agenda is that of the harsh financial and fiscal realities that determine “Solvency” or, more urgently now, its opposite. The color of this agenda aptly reflects the “red ink” of the ocean of debt in which America and many of its global partners are now drowning. Across a span of years past, exponents of the red agenda sounded alarms about the impending threats of rising deficits and national debt, unfunded liabilities, excessively easy money and cheap credit, overleveraging, opaque accounting, lax regulation, and the house of cards built of synthetic financial “derivatives.” Now the day of reckoning has arrived and the alarms that were ignored, and the corrections that were postponed, no longer can be avoided.


The Clash of Agendas

Sustainability Synergy



© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

Politics traditionally is slanted to avoid zero-sum games and to serve all demands simultaneously. And there are some specific cases where cost-effective solutions exist that can serve both security and environmental objectives while containing or reducing overall budget costs. But the zone of happy synergy between green and blue agendas is limited. In far more cases the green and blue agendas compete for resources and design requirements. Up until the recent past, rather than tradeoffs being reconciled in some kind of rational design process, the conflicts often were simply fudged, with extra green and blue baubles heaped on groaning architectural Christmas trees to appease separate constituencies, and the bloated costs paid through separate line items. In the past that was wasteful; from now on it will be increasingly impossible. The tide of red ink rising from below the black line of solvency in the chart already limits the comfortable zone of synergy. The prodigious financial demands of either the blue or the green agendas already has begun to seem infeasible.


The Clash
• The Southeast drought: city v. fish v. power • Nuclear power: climate v. weapons/accidents • EPA ‘Smart Growth’ v. public safety • Other examples:
– – – – – BRAC, Fort Belvoir: security v. traffic pollution The Hurriquake® Nail: durability v. recycling US-Mexico border: fence v. wildlife Navy sonar training range v. whales Seattle Viaduct: new urbanism v. ‘lifeline’

© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

Some of many possible examples of the blue vs. green clash include: •The recent drought in the Southeast US at times left the 4 million people in metropolitan Atlanta with only enough water to last about 90 days. Yet the US Corps of Engineers was required to release a billion gallons of water a day from the city’s main Lanier reservoir to protect an endangered species of fish downstream in Florida; the water also is needed to cool the Farley nuclear power plant in Alabama. •Some environmentalists now advocate expanding nuclear power to fight global warming; others claim that the threat of nuclear accidents and weapons proliferation makes nuclear power unacceptable. •Police, fire, and other public safety officials object that the EPA’s Smart Growth program leads to dense developments with narrow streets that hinder access by emergency vehicles. Many recent Smart Growth developments have sprung up in vulnerable areas of the Gulf Coast devastated by previous hurricanes. (See next slide.) Other examples are: •The federal government plans to move some 20 thousand defense workers from urban offices in the Washington area to the more secure location of Fort Belvoir. But local officials and citizens in Northern Virginia protest that the increased traffic congestion will increase air pollution and energy consumption. •The Bostitch Hurriquake® nail was designed to increase the ability of wooden buildings to survive wind damage by 200% and earthquake damage by 50%. But a leading green building architect complains that it will make collapsed buildings harder to recycle. •The ‘fence’ designed to thwart illegal immigration, and possible terrorist intrusion, along the USMexican border is challenged by lawsuits form environmental groups who claim it will impede wildlife migration and damage the environment. •Environmental organizations also have sued to stop the US Navy’s plans to test and train with new sonar systems, which may cause beaked whales to beach themselves. •Since a 2001 earthquake rocked the Seattle area, environmentalists have called for removing the Alaska Way Viaduct to improve the city’s waterfront environment and discourage commuting. But emergency management officials want to strengthen the Viaduct to protect the city’s transportation ‘lifelines’—for evacuation, rescue, and recovery—in the event of future disasters.


Can ‘Smart Growth’ be in dumb locations?
Will this… … become this?

Seaside, FL: ‘Smart Growth’ Galveston, TX after Hurricane Ike

© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

Research by Prof. Philip Berke and colleagues at the University of North Carolina found that many “Smart Growth” communities are being built in coastal and other locations highly vulnerable to disaster. This, among other examples, illustrates how disconnected the Green concept of “sustainability” is from the common-sense notion of survivability. And why “sustainability” is often not really sustainable or sustained.


The Red Challenge
• Blue demands: $2+ Trillion/5 years • Green demands: $ X Trillions/Y years • Red crisis:
– – – – – – $10 Trillion federal debt $2 Trillion deficit $50-100 Trillion unfunded liabilities $1 Trillion outstanding credit-card debt $1 Trillion for housing, financial bailouts Hard realities of entitlements:
• 70% of federal budget by 2030 • 20% of US GDP by 2034
© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

The costs of meeting the demands of either the blue or green infrastructure agendas separately loom large. Estimates from the American Society of Civil Engineers and others indicate that $2 trillion needs to be spent over a span of five years just to moderately mitigate the danger to public safety posed by America’s crumbling, brittle, and hazardous infrastructure. While the real costs and potential benefits of the green agenda just for “climate protection”—mitigating the expected future impacts of global warming—are debated, even the more modest estimates imply infrastructure renovation costs to the U.S. on a similar scale of hundreds of billions of dollars annually. The cost of the Warner-Lieberman bill of 2008 alone was estimated at $1 trillion or more. (The CBO estimate of the cost of the Waxman-Markey bill of 2009 of more than $800 billion was widely criticized for omitting most of the negative economic impacts of reduced business activity and employment caused by higher energy costs—projected to be several times greater.) All this comes at a time when America now stands at the edge of a fiscal cliff, beyond which stretches an abyss of economic disaster from mushrooming debt, financial collapse, and ballooning entitlements.


The Red Challenge…more
• Estimated economic cost of global warming = $48-76 Trillion • Value of Credit Default Swaps sold in 2007 = $62 Trillion • Total outstanding amount of financial derivatives = $684 Trillion (2008)
– 12x World GDP
© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

The squeeze of massive and growing debt has been compounded by the cancerous impact on the global financial system of inadequate regulation and the explosive spread of synthetic financial assets. What once seemed like a prodigious potential economic cost of global warming at the end of the century now appears minor compared to the enormous, immediate threat of toxic financial assets.


Possible Synergy
• Telework
– Less energy, less pollution, more security, lower cost, higher productivity

• Zero-energy buildings
– More resilient emergency facilities?

• Marines, Air Force:
– Solar, renewable, recycling tech

• Green + blue – red: infrastructure
– Near-term ROI from efficiency that just-in-case hazard mitigation lacks
© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

The green and blue agendas do not always need to be in conflict. There even are opportunities for positive synergy. For example, Telework reduces emissions and saves energy and other resources, moreover not only saving money but improving productivity, and on top of that enhancing security and disaster resilience. Zero-energy buildings could enable police or fire stations, shelters, hospitals, communications facilities, embassies, and such to keep functioning in the wake of a disaster even when electrical or fuel supplies are interrupted. And while it may not serve everyone’s priorities, even the Defense Department has an increasing, practical interest in green solutions. The Marine Corps is looking to apply solar, renewable, and recycling technologies on the sites of operations in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, to reduce the need for vulnerable truck convoys to supply fuel and water. And the Air Force, which is as pinched by high fuel costs as airlines or anyone else, is making a serious effort to develop and use biofuels, synthetic fuels, or other alternatives. Moreover, green infrastructure investments can offer near-term, tangible returns from efficiencies in energy and resource use that just-in-case investments in hazard risk mitigation often do not. To the extent that the design features of both can be integrated economically, the economics of hazard mitigation could become more attractive while sustainability could become more truly equivalent to survivability.


Synergy or Compromise?
Freedom Tower, New York Federal Bldg, San Francisco US Embassy, Baghdad

“Fortress America”; but not efficient Greening + hardening = $$$$$ Green wind turbines & rain storage Safety trimmed to lower rents © 2008, Lewis J. Perelman Solid concrete anti-blast wall

Most of the casualties of the bombings of the Murrah Building (Oklahoma City) and US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were caused by shattered window glass, not structural collapse. Since then, building security criteria have stressed replacing glass curtain walls with solid concrete/masonry, as in the new US embassy in Baghdad on the left. The Freedom Tower (center), planned to replace the World Trade Center towers, embodies a mélange of compromises of security, sustainability, economic, and aesthetic demands. These include a solid concrete outer wall rising 200 feet from the base, to deter bomb attack, and wind turbines in the top levels to earn renewable energy credit. The new San Francisco Federal Building (on the right), designed to win LEED Gold or Platinum certification, is encased in glass to provide natural illumination. Windows open automatically for natural ventilation. All of which makes the building vulnerable to attack by blast or by CBR weapons. The windows of the San Francisco building are covered with a steel mesh and are made of blast-resistant glass, to mitigate the impact of bomb attack. However these expensive features substantially increased the cost of construction. The General Services Administration so far has declined to provide data to indicate whether the total lifecycle cost of this structure is greater or less than that of alternative, less ‘green’ designs. However, a GSA official stated that the State Department’s embassy design chose to minimize windows in favor of concrete outer walls to reduce costs.


A new, coherent, doctrine of infrastructure Resilience that is: • Effective • Efficient • Affordable  • Politically realistic

© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

Blue and green optimists would like to believe that America is rich enough to pay the price tag for each of their agendas simultaneously—and that there is no “zero-sum game” between the demands for greater security and sustainability. But the fast-unfolding economic and financial crises suggest that the country may be hard pressed to pay for either. It clearly cannot afford duplicative, contradictory, or wasteful efforts. All of which underscores the urgency to come up with a new doctrine of infrastructure renewal that is effective, efficient, affordable and politically realistic.


Practical Issues
• Potential for synergy
– Within budget limits

• Tradeoffs in practice
– Within budget limits

• Economics
– Risk/benefit/cost analysis

• Real Politics • To Do
© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

Potential for synergy. What design elements or solutions produce, or could produce, benefits that simultaneously serve both security/safety and environmental efficiency demands, within budget limitations? Tradeoffs in practice. How do planners, architects, or engineers resolve conflicts and establish priorities between demands for security/safety and demands for environmental efficiency, again within budget limitations? Economics. What are the relative risks, costs, and benefits of competing blue and green agendas for infrastructure renewal? What capital resources are available to meet either or both demands? How reliable is the accounting for the risks, costs, and benefits of each? What accounting improvements are needed? Real politics. What are the actual political interests and conflicts surrounding the blue and green policy agendas? What specific initiatives are most likely and least likely to be politically do-able? To Do. What should be done to resolve intersecting blue and green infrastructure development issues by (a) the public sector? (b) the private sector? (c) philanthropy? (d) academia? (e) nongovernmental organizations?


Sometimes it is not enough to do our best. We must do what is required.

© 2008, Lewis J. Perelman

CONTACT: Dr. Lewis J. Perelman Email:


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