Sociotechnical systems analysis for civil engineering infrastructure

Emily Zechman Berglund, Ph.D., P.E.

formerly Emily Michelle Zechman

Associate Professor

Department of Civil, Environmental, & Construction Engineering

North Carolina State University


This research asks “How do human behaviors and choices impact the performance of engineered infrastructure systems?”

Dr. Berglund’s research investigates sociotechnical systems, which are conceptualized as systems in which human decision-making affects resource availability and infrastructure performance, while feedback loops from resource and infrastructure systems affect human decisions.  Civil engineering infrastructure systems are built to serve the public, and the performance of these systems depends on how communities use them.  As a result, there are feedbacks among natural resources, infrastructure, and society. In the Sociotechnical Systems Analysis Laboratory, we are developing new ways to study and understand the interconnections and feedbacks within civil engineering sociotechnical systems that involve water resources, society, energy resources, and infrastructure. 

For example, modeling work conducted in Dr. Berglund’s group shows that water consumers who react to water quality problems in their tap water can change the water flows in a pipe network to the extent that flows are reversed in some pipes, compared to the normal operating conditions.  These dynamics affect predictions about what segments of the population may be affected by the contaminant and what operations should be implemented to flush out a contaminant. In other research, Dr. Berglund and her colleagues conducted a national survey to assess public perceptions about water reuse.  This data was used to encode an agent-based model to simulate opinion dynamics within a community, based on communication among households. The agent-based model was used to predict adoption as the initiation of new water reuse accounts and to assess the efficiency of water reclamation infrastructure expansion plans. Dr. Berglund’s research also assesses water supply availability based on population growth, climate change, and water use restrictions.  New modeling frameworks simulate the decisions of utility managers to optimize water supply decisions or respond to declining levels of water availability.  The effects of these decisions on basin-level resources, local supply sustainability, and social welfare are assessed.

See other research projects here.



OFFICE: 312 Mann Hall

MAILING ADDRESS: C.B. 7908, Raleigh, NC 27695


© Emily Berglund 2016