What Does an Infrastructure Engineer Do?

Britt Archer
Britt Archer
Infrastructure engineers often inspect structures like bridges.
Infrastructure engineers often inspect structures like bridges.

An infrastructure engineer finds ways to improve and maintain the infrastructure of a town, region or nation. The work can focus on maintaining a number of systems that are fundamental to keeping society working smoothly, such as the electrical grid, railways, sewers, water supply, bridges and highways. An infrastructure engineer also may have to find ways of fixing parts of the infrastructure that have broken down or been destroyed. Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for example, damaged New Orleans’ levees, and a bridge collapse would need similar repair to keep a city and its people safe.

An infrastructure engineer focuses on maintaining a number of systems that are fundamental to keeping society working smoothly, such as the electrical grid, railways, water supply, bridges and highways.
An infrastructure engineer focuses on maintaining a number of systems that are fundamental to keeping society working smoothly, such as the electrical grid, railways, water supply, bridges and highways.

The infrastructure systems of many established cities are aging, which presents a different set of problems for an infrastructure engineer. Pipes that carry natural gas, for instance, are buried underground, and the old maps can be inaccurate as the landmarks above ground change and grow over decades. Before infrastructure improvements can be made, it first becomes necessary to correctly map out the placement of existing pipes.

Before infrastructure improvements can be made, it first becomes necessary to correctly map out the placement of existing pipes.
Before infrastructure improvements can be made, it first becomes necessary to correctly map out the placement of existing pipes.

An infrastructure engineer who is charged with maintaining these systems is frequently challenged by the old age of many of the systems. The older systems were built using outdated methods and designs, and sometimes maintenance has been minimal or nonexistent for decades. The task is often to inspect a bridge or levee with modern equipment and methods, for example, and then to devise ways to bring them up to modern standards of safety.

An infrastructure engineer may work on technology used for electrical grids.
An infrastructure engineer may work on technology used for electrical grids.

Sustainable infrastructure engineering focuses on the rehabilitation of the current infrastructure systems with an eye toward sustainability. This means, among other things, that an infrastructure engineer would perform his duties while keeping an eye on how his work affects the environment. In other cases, he may look at how the environment has impacted historic structures, or how best to dispose of waste without causing further environmental damage.

An infrastructure engineer may work on projects such as the construction of new tunnels.
An infrastructure engineer may work on projects such as the construction of new tunnels.

Infrastructure engineer duties vary by project. On one project, an infrastructure engineer may be called on to perform bridge inspections after a flood or earthquake and figure out how to fix any damage, or even inspect a bridge as part of regular maintenance. On other types of projects, the engineer would inspect levees, design better roadways or figure out the best way to upgrade a port or rail terminal.

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    • Infrastructure engineers often inspect structures like bridges.
      By: anekoho
      Infrastructure engineers often inspect structures like bridges.
    • An infrastructure engineer focuses on maintaining a number of systems that are fundamental to keeping society working smoothly, such as the electrical grid, railways, water supply, bridges and highways.
      By: Lev
      An infrastructure engineer focuses on maintaining a number of systems that are fundamental to keeping society working smoothly, such as the electrical grid, railways, water supply, bridges and highways.
    • Before infrastructure improvements can be made, it first becomes necessary to correctly map out the placement of existing pipes.
      By: evp82
      Before infrastructure improvements can be made, it first becomes necessary to correctly map out the placement of existing pipes.
    • An infrastructure engineer may work on technology used for electrical grids.
      By: Sarah Fields
      An infrastructure engineer may work on technology used for electrical grids.
    • An infrastructure engineer may work on projects such as the construction of new tunnels.
      By: viappy
      An infrastructure engineer may work on projects such as the construction of new tunnels.
    • An infrastructure engineer may be tasked with updating aging pipes in a city.
      By: Andrei Merkulov
      An infrastructure engineer may be tasked with updating aging pipes in a city.
    • An infrastructure engineer may help design roads in unpaved areas.
      By: fototaras
      An infrastructure engineer may help design roads in unpaved areas.