The University of Minnesota has received a $12 million dollar award from the National Science Foundation to bring together a unique network of scientists, industry leaders and policy partners committed to building better cities of the future. Led by Professors Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota), Patricia Culligan (Columbia University) and Armistead Russell (Georgia Institute of Technology), the network will connect across nine research universities, major metropolitan cities in the U.S. and India, as well as infrastructure firms, and policy groups. The network is the first of its size to focus on ways to reimagine our infrastructure—our energy grids, road networks, green spaces, and food and water systems—to create cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment, and have that intangible “vibe” we call livability, that makes cities desirable places to live and work.
Our project, titled “Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities,” 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 roadway networks, regional power grids, and complex networks that supply food and water to cities from distant locations. Emerging trends suggest that cities may be better off building more local systems—urban farms, household and neighborhood solar generation, district energy systems, bicycle paths, car-sharing systems, and more. Our research network seeks to identify the best mix of local and large infrastructure systems to achieve urban sustainability, health and livability goals, by examining possibilities in diverse cities across the U.S. and in India. We are exploring physical changes in infrastructure design, the role of new technologies, as well as the changes in public attitudes and policies that can help achieve the infrastructure transitions needed to build desirable cities, today and into the future.
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Our Mission is to advance environmental sustainability, health, and livability in diverse cities across the world through infrastructure innovations in energy, water, transportation, green infrastructure, and food systems, linked with social, behavioral, and policy change.
Our network connects research and education with concrete actions in cities. The universities in our network are partnering with their local cities, and with industry and policy partners who bring great potential to disseminate the findings of our network to more than 29,000 cities in the US and globally.