The Sustainable Healthy Cities Network is exploring integrated infrastructure solutions-across sectors and scale-connecting biophysical and social systems, to advance urban sustainability, health, and livability.

The network’s research considers ways to reimagine infrastructure-e.g. energy grids, transportation networks, green spaces, food and water systems-to create cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment, and have that intangible feeling called livability, making cities desirable places to live and work.

The network is exploring a new movement gaining momentum in cities around the world toward “distributed,” or more local, infrastructure such as urban farms, district energy systems, car-sharing networks, and more. The network is working 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 Unites States and in India.

The research findings of the network can be organized by infrastructure sector, by outcomes, or by pathways of change for influencing infrastructure transitions. Beyond these broad categories, there are three core themes to the network’s research activities.

Theme 1- Measuring Sustainability Outcomes, Co-benefits, and Tradeoffs in Cities

Theme 1 focuses on developing science-based methods to track the environmental sustainability, health, and livability of cities. It integrates 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 as incorporating the role of urban infrastructure and environment, as well as social and cultural factors that shape health and well-being. This theme is led by Ted Russell at Georgia Tech and Yingling Fan at the University of Minnesota.

Theme 2 – Innovations in Design and Policy for Infrastructure Transitions across Sectors

Theme 2 focuses on identifying the innovations needed in infrastructure design and in our social institutions to advance environment, health, and livability outcomes in cities. Researchers are drawing 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 United States and India. This theme is led by Anu Ramaswami at the University of Minnesota, Ben Orlove at Columbia University, and Rick Feiock at Florida State University.

Theme 2 is comprised of four research testbeds:

• Energy – led by Dan Zimmerle at Colorado State University and Vijay Modi at Columbia University
• Transportation – led by Kara Kockelman at the University of Texas at Austin and Jason Cao at the University of Minnesota
• Water and Wastewater – led by Lutgarde Raskin at the University of Michigan
• Green Infrastructure and Urban Farms – led by Joshua Newell at the University of Michigan and Richard Plunz at Columbia University

Theme 3 – Integrative Scenario Modeling across City Types

Theme 3 puts into action the new knowledge created in Themes 1 and 2, to model various policy and technology scenarios in diverse real world cities. These scenarios range from small, fast-growing cities like Fort Collins, Colorado, to shrinking cities like Detroit, to stable cities with aging infrastructure like New York City and Minneapolis, to young cites emerging in India that are trying to leap-frog into next generation infrastructure systems. This theme is be led by Patricia Culligan at Columbia University and Kara Kockelman at the University of Texas at Austin.