How Infrastructure Works

Inside the Systems That Shape Our World

320 pages

English language

Published July 7, 2023 by Penguin Publishing Group.

Copied ISBN!

View on OpenLibrary

5 stars (1 review)

A new way of seeing the essential systems hidden inside our walls, under our streets, and all around us

Infrastructure is a marvel, meeting our basic needs and enabling lives of astounding ease and productivity that would have been unimaginable just a century ago. It is the physical manifestation of our social contract—of our ability to work collectively for the public good—and it consists of the most complex and vast technological systems ever created by humans.

A soaring bridge is an obvious infrastructural feat, but so are the mostly hidden reservoirs, transformers, sewers, cables, and pipes that deliver water, energy, and information to wherever we need it. When these systems work well, they hide in plain sight. Engineer and materials scientist Deb Chachra takes readers on a fascinating tour of these essential utilities, revealing how they work, what it takes to keep them running, just how much we rely on …

3 editions's book will change your perspective on the world, connect you to roots, and implications, you weren't aware of.

5 stars

I guess at first blush it might sound a bit strange that a book about utilities, roads, and drainage can change your perspective on the world, but Deb Chachra's does just that.

I have both a personal and professional interest in this stuff, but not huge knowledge in the area. I expected lots of cool technical detail, hooks into the fascinating intricacies of water treatment, electricity generation and distribution, transport. All of that is there, but every sentence is embedded in a fabric of social and cultural awareness. The whole point of infrastructure is social, the technicalities are just...well.. the technicalities. It is the bigger picture that Chachra is interested in here. The result is a not so much a disorientation, as a reorientation. It's a recognition of the ways in which the infrastructure that we take for granted every day (that is designed to be taken for granted), gives …


  • Environmental policy
  • Civil engineering