Research Focus

We are exploring integrated infrastructure solutions across sectors and scale (in energy, transportation, water/wastewater, green spaces, and urban farming sectors), connecting the biophysical and social systems, to advance urban sustainability, health, and livability.

Our  research focuses on a new movement gaining momentum in cities around the world toward “distributed,” or more local, infrastructure. Until now, development trends have resulted in very large infrastructure systems—large power grids, large roadway networks, complex systems that pipe water from remote rivers, and food distribution from faraway states and countries. Emerging trends suggest cities may be better off building more local systems—urban farms, local solar generation, bike share systems, and more. This network will try to identify the best mix of local and large to achieve urban sustainability, health and livability goals, by examining infrastructure in diverse cities in the US and India. The team will also explore the public attitudes and policies that can help achieve such urban transitions.

The research will draw upon new innovations in technology, infrastructure, and policy design being studied in laboratories, as well as in real-world test-beds in our partner cities. From the start, university researchers will collaborate with cities, policy organizations, and industry partners, so that the solutions developed are practical, and can immediately be put into action in cities around the globe.

University Partners

  • University of Minnesota Logo
  • Columbia University New York Logo
  • Georgia Institution of Technology Logo
  • Colorado State University Logo
  • Florida State University Logo
  • Ohio State University Logo
  • University of Michigan Logo
  • University of Texas Austin Logo
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras


The work of our network is organized into three themes:

Theme 1 will develop science-based methods to track the environmental sustainability, health, and livability of cities. It will integrate methods to: measure the water-, energy- and carbon footprints of cities, assess the influence of urban design on air pollution and extreme climate events in different neighborhoods, measure the emotional well-being of people in-the-moment (i.e., livability), incorporating the role of urban infrastructure and environment, as well as social and cultural factors that shape health and well-being. This theme will be led by Ted Russell at Georgia Tech and Yingling Fan at the University of Minnesota.

Theme 2 will identify the innovations needed in infrastructure design and in our social institutions to advance environment, health, and livability outcomes in cities. Researchers will draw upon new technologies being incubated in university laboratories, as well as infrastructure innovations being piloted in real-world test-beds in our partner cities in the US and India. This theme will be led by Anu Ramaswami at the University of Minnesota, Ben Orlove at Columbia University, and Rick Feiock at Florida State University.

Theme 3 will operationalize the new knowledge created in Themes 1 and 2, to model various policy and technology scenarios in diverse world cities – ranging from small fast-growing cities like Fort Collins, Colorado, to shrinking cities like Detroit, Michigan, from stable cities with aging infrastructure cities like NYC and MSP to young cites emerging in India that are trying to leap-frog into next generation infrastructure systems. This theme will be led by Patricia Culligan at Columbia University and Kara Kockelman at the University of Texas-Austin.



Theme 2 is comprised of four research testbeds:

Research Testbeds

Colorado Solar Panels
Google Car
Water Treatment Plant
Vertical Farming