UC Berkeley, EBMUD announce launch of research center at Richmond Field Station

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Adam Lau/Courtesy
UC Berkeley and the East Bay Municipal Utility District to establish center which focuses on projects set to restrengthen and improve aging infrastructure using data analytics and machine learning.

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UC Berkeley and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, or EBMUD, are partnering to launch a research center called the Center for Smart Infrastructure and delivered the announcement Nov. 1.

Researchers at the center will work on projects that utilize developments in data analytics and machine learning to combat aging infrastructure. They seek to make infrastructure more seismically resilient and resistant to the problems posed by climate change, noted Kenichi Soga, founding director of the center and campus professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“One of the greatest challenges facing engineers in the 21st century is the stewardship of aging infrastructure along with creation of new infrastructure that the society demands,” Soga said in an email.

One of the projects being conducted by the center is the placing of “distributive fiber optic sensors” on the pipeline running near the Claremont Hotel. As it is situated along the Hayward Fault, the sensors will serve as a way of monitoring the movement of the pipe, allowing them to make changes as necessary.

In addition to the planned infrastructure projects, campus and EBMUD have designed an undergraduate course that will focus on water, wastewater and water infrastructure, according to Clifford Chan, general manager of EBMUD and campus alumnus.

Chan said the project will expose students to the “waterspace” and will allow them to share their new ideas, getting students excited about the work that EBMUD does.

The benefit of that work is to be exposing students to the work that we do, as well as leveraging the new ideas students bring to the waterspace,” Chan said. “We are creating a pipeline of students to enter the waterspace. We want to get people excited about all the wonderful work that we do”

The EBMUD Board of Directors has allocated $1.5 million to the center’s commencement of the first phases of their projects, according to Andrea Pook, EBMUD spokesperson.

In general, there is a sense of optimism and excitement among those involved in the project, Chan noted.

“We are really looking at the problems that are difficult, and we are really trying to challenge the thinking not just of utilities but of the UC faculty, and we know that they are up for the challenge,” Chan said. “We can’t be any more excited about this partnership.”

Contact Anna Armstrong at [email protected]