Adaptable Infrastructure – what does it mean?

Hein Aucamp, Director, WA Integrated Asset Management, and member of the Perth City Chapter, WA, is our guest blogger this week. In this, the first of his two posts, he looks at what adaptable infrastructure means.

A Maunsell Fort

One of the earliest examples of adaptable infrastructure was in the 1940s. Guy Maunsell assisted the war effort by designing his famous Maunsell Forts, which were floating concrete structures, sunk in strategic positions. Their deployment was similar to offshore oil platforms. They were adaptable in their deployment. One outside Britain’s territorial waters eventually became famous after being proclaimed as a principality – similar to the Principality of Hutt River in WA.

But although military infrastructure is definitely adaptable from one perspective, it is also prohibitively expensive to imitate in peace time.

For infrastructure to be adaptable in a meaningful way, we don’t merely mean that adaptation can be done to it; the adaptation process must be relatively cheap and easy. For example, if our so-called adaptation process involves demolishing and rebuilding 50% of an item, we could (with at least equal honesty) describe our modification as demolition, disposal of economic value, and reconstruction.

Adaptability of infrastructure can apply to several different aspects of its responsiveness to changing needs. Ideally, we would require rapid, easy, and cheap ways to achieve the following:

  • Adaptability in deployment to allow efficient construction as needs become apparent.
  • Adaptability in function to allow efficient change in use for either a range or foreseen needs, or for emerging needs.
  • Adaptability in recovery to allow it to be moved or recycled and re-used when it unexpectedly emerges that it is no longer necessary – or that better alternatives have appeared.


Do we have any examples of infrastructure that is adaptable to this extent? We have modularisation which allows rapid building and extension of structures that follow a pattern. And we have some ability with roads and buildings to make rapid operational adjustments to accommodate a multipurpose environment.

But true adaptability is hard to achieve. The main problem is that when the need reduces or disappears, the infrastructure resists modification without loss of economic value – which is a polite way of saying we have to demolish it and pay to reinstate the environment.

Next: Adaptability in Recovery.

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