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Choice Architecture as a Way to Encourage a Whole Systems Design Perspective for More Sustainable Infrastructure
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Across fields, more sustainable and resilient outcomes are being realized through a whole systems design perspective, which guides decision-makers to consider the entire system affected including interdependent physical and social networks. Although infrastructure is extremely interdependent, consisting of diverse stakeholders and networks, the infrastructure design and construction process is often fragmented. This fragmentation can result in unnecessary tradeoffs, leading to poor outcomes for certain stakeholders and the surrounding environment. A whole systems design perspective would help connect this fragmented industry and lead to more sustainable outcomes. For example, a whole systems design approach to relieve traffic on a highway might see beyond the obvious, but often ineffective, response of adding a new vehicle lane to encourage a solution such as repurposing existing road lanes from automobiles to above-ground “subway” systems. This paper discusses influences to whole systems design and how intentional choice architecture, meaning the way decisions are posed, can nudge decision-makers to employ whole systems design and result in more sustainable infrastructure. By uncovering these influences and organizing them by the social, organizational, and individual levels of the infrastructure design process, this paper provides the needed foundation for interdisciplinary research to help harness these influences through choice architecture and whole systems design for the infrastructure industry.