Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Matteo Pozzi


Civil infrastructure systems form the backbone of modern civilization, providing the basic services that allow society to function. Effective management of these systems requires decision-making about the allocation of limited resources to maintain and repair infrastructure components and to replace failed or obsolete components. Making informed decisions requires an understanding of the state of the system; such an understanding can be achieved through a computational or conceptual system model combined with information gathered on the system via inspections or sensors. Gathering of this information, referred to generally as sensing, should be optimized to best support the decision-making and system management processes, in order to reduce long-term operational costs and improve infrastructure performance. In this work, an approach to optimal sensing in infrastructure systems is developed by combining probabilistic graphical models of infrastructure system behavior with the value of information (VoI) metric, which quantifies the utility of information gathering efforts (referred to generally as sensor placements) in supporting decision-making in uncertain systems. Computational methods are presented for the efficient evaluation and optimization of the VoI metric based on the probabilistic model structure. Various case studies on the application of this approach to managing infrastructure systems are presented, illustrating the flexibility of the basic method as well as various special cases for its practical implementation. Three main contributions are presented in this work. First, while the computational complexity of the VoI metric generally grows exponentially with the number of components, growth can be greatly reduced in systems with certain topologies (designated as cumulative topologies). Following from this, an efficient approach to VoI computation based on a cumulative topology and Gaussian random field model is developed and presented. Second, in systems with non-cumulative topologies, approximate techniques may be used to evaluate the VoI metric. This work presents extensive investigations of such systems and draws some general conclusions about the behavior of this metric. Third, this work presents several complete application cases for probabilistic modeling techniques and the VoI metric in supporting infrastructure system management. Case studies are presented in structural health monitoring, seismic risk mitigation, and extreme temperature response in urban areas. Other minor contributions included in this work are theoretical and empirical comparisons of the VoI with other sensor placement metrics and an extension of the developed sensor placement method to systems that evolve in time. Overall, this work illustrates how probabilistic graphical models and the VoI metric can allow for efficient sensor placement optimization to support infrastructure system management. Areas of future work to expand on the results presented here include the development of approximate, heuristic methods to support efficient sensor placement in non-cumulative system topologies, as well as further validation of the efficient sensing optimization approaches used in this work.