Tag Archives: Russell


SRN Successfully Presents First Year Progress to NSF

Fallon, Culligan, Russell, and Ramaswami presented first year progress at recent NSF Reverse Site Visit in DC.
July 06, 2016

June 30 and July 1, 2016

Our cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation allows us to present them with our progress annually. PI’s Anu Ramaswami, Trish Culligan, and Ted Russell, and Operations Manager, Tracy Fallon, were in Washington DC last week to share information with NSF staff and other Sustainability Research Networks (SRNs).

Each SRN gave an introduction to their project and presented their progress in the following areas:

  • Education and Outreach
  • Special Topics to Working in a Network
  • The Role of Social Sciences in SRN Research Programs
  • The Role of Natural Sciences in SRN Research Programs
  • The Role of Engineering in SRN Research Programs

The annual meeting concluded with each Network meeting face-to-face with their NSF program officer to receive feedback.  We are happy to report that the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network is on track and received praise for a productive first year!

Fellow SRNs

  • SCRiM (Sustainable Climate Risk Management)
  • AirWaterGas
  • UWIN (Urban Water Innovation Network)
  • UREx (Urban Resilience to Extremes)


PIs Ramaswami, Russell, and Culligan co-author commentary in Science on smart sustainable healthy cities

PIRE students and researchers visited India and China to study sustainable healthy cities.
May 26, 2016

“We must move beyond data to the systems-level decisions that we as a society must make to transition toward a smart, sustainable, and healthy urban future,” says SRN lead PI Anu Ramaswami, who led a commentary on the subject published in the special urban issue of the journal Science

In January, the University of Minnesota and ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability brought together faculty, students, and policymakers from the U.S., China, and India for a workshop on sustainable cities. Inspiration for this paper was a result of that workshop.

In the commentary, SRN faculty Ramaswami (University of Minnesota), Armistead Russell (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Patricia Culligan (Columbia University), along with Mr Emani Kumar (ICLEI South Asia) outline eight basic principles for transforming cities that apply across the world, and resonate with local partners.

One principle focuses on providing basic infrastructure for all, especially in cities where 30-40 percent of the population lives in slums.

The authors cite a few examples already underway: In India, where cities face problems with water scarcity and access in slum areas, ATMs (automatic teller machines) that dispense fresh water are being piloted. Cities in China are exploring “fit-for-purpose” water reuse supply to homes.

It’s not enough for individual cities to develop these smart technologies on their own. Most urban areas get the vast majority of their energy, water, building materials, and food from beyond their boundaries, so developing cleaner and more efficient systems for supplying these goods and services is critical.

SRN PI’s collaborated with ICLEI in the development of footprinting tools that cities can use to measure their energy and water consumption, and then use that data to better understand their impacts on the environment within and outside their boundaries.

Brian Holland (ICLEI USA): “This research is making an important contribution to the growing movement of sustainable and low-carbon cities.  In particular, the emerging approaches to footprinting local environmental and health outcomes across sectors and scales aligns well with the widely-used standards for city-scale GHG accounting we’ve developed with our partners and stakeholders.”

Another guiding principle is to pursue urban health improvements at different scales—from the home, to the neighborhood, to regional pollution, to climate extremes—while recognizing the inequities among residents.  Many U.S. cities are undertaking community-based health planning with a focus on climate events such as extreme heat and cold, and how they might impact vulnerable populations differently.

The authors also recommend the integration of large infrastructure systems with smaller-scale, local systems such as urban farms, community solar gardens, and district energy systems.

Interdisciplinary and Multi-institution Collaboration

The principles and recommendations are the results of insights developed from two large multi-institution grants supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, which are both led by professor Ramaswami.

The Sustainability Research Network (SRN) on Sustainable Healthy Cities is a network of scientists, industry leaders, and policy partners, committed to building better cities of the future through innovations in infrastructure design, technology and policy. The network connects across nine research universities, major metropolitan cities in the U.S. and India, as well as infrastructure firms, and policy groups.

The Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE), a collaboration of the University of Minnesota, Yale, Georgia Tech, and four universities in India and China, developed an international and interdisciplinary curriculum. The project connects study tours with research and outreach, and allows for deep engagement with nonprofit government organizations and policymakers from the U.S., China, and India. The workshop mentioned earlier was the culmination of one such tour of various cities in India and China to study how those cities were transforming their infrastructure to meet future needs.

The special issue of Science can be found here: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/rise-urban-planet


Minnesota and Georgia Tech Collaborate on Pollution Threat to Taj Mahal

October 28, 2015

A joint study by the University of Minnesota and Georgia Institute of Technology addresses the high level of particulate matter responsible for masking the white marble sheen of the Taj Mahal.

Read the articles:


Tech, NSF collaborate to promote sustainability

Photo courtesy of Kee Seng Heng
October 12, 2015

Professors Armistead Russell and Nisha Botchwey, will lead Georgia Tech’s involvement in the Sustainability Research Network being funded by the National Science Foundation.

Read the full article


CSU Joins Network to Research Sustainable, Livable Cities

August 17, 2015

Colorado State University researchers will be part of a unique network of scientists, industry leaders and policy partners committed to building better cities of the future.

The consortium, supported by a $12 million Sustainability Research Network award from the National Science Foundation and led by the University of Minnesota, Columbia University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, includes nine universities, major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and India, infrastructure firms and policy groups, all focused on creating cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment, and have that intangible “vibe” called livability that makes cities desirable places to live and work.

SRN_livable_cityThe 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.

Daniel Zimmerle, senior research associate at Colorado State, will bring his expertise in distributed energy grids to the project. He has been instrumental in the research that has created Fort ZED, the net-zero energy district in Fort Collins and is currently researching micro-grid technology designed to bring energy to rural villages in Rwanda.

“We have to think in new ways about a city’s physical infrastructure to develop sustainable solutions,” said Anu Ramaswami of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, who is the lead investigator and director for the project. “Understanding that these systems are interconnected serves as a foundation for this work. For example, urban farms wouldn’t work very well without thinking about water, energy, and transportation infrastructure, as well as people, markets and policies.”

Interconnected energy systems

The CSU team will study energy systems interconnected with transportation, water and other systems. The team will utilize data from multiple communities, including Fort Collins, to create simulation models for innovating new methods of optimizing systems.

“Many energy problems have interesting interconnections with social systems or other technical systems. This center will bring together all of the necessary expertise to truly study these interconnections,” said Zimmerle.

Patricia Culligan of Columbia University and Armistead Russell from Georgia Technology are co-directors of the project.

Estimates indicate that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Such growth will exert tremendous pressure on water, energy, and land resources, creating traffic congestion, air pollution, and urban inequity that already affects the health of millions of urban residents today. A majority of the infrastructure required to accommodate that future growth has yet to be built, or will need to be rehabilitated from existing systems.

Until now, development trends have resulted in very large infrastructure systems — large power grids, large roadway networks, complex systems that pipe water from distant rivers, and supply food 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.

Three themes

The work of the network is organized into three themes.

Theme 1 will develop science-based methods to track the environmental sustainability, health and livability of cities. The various teams will measure the water and energy footprints of cities, the emotional well-being of people in-the-moment as they experience the city, the influence of urban design on air pollution and health, the impact of cities on natural ecosystems, and modeling extreme climate events such as extreme heat and flooding, that impact the livability of cities.

Theme 2 will identify the innovations needed in infrastructure design and in our social institutions to advance environment, health and livability outcomes in cities. In this thematic area, 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. Each university in this network is partnering with their local city to explore innovative infrastructure solutions – the network’s test-beds span energy, water, transportation, green infrastructure and food system innovations being piloted in cities in the US and in India.

In Theme 3 the new knowledge created in Themes 1 and 2 will be used to model various policy and technology scenarios in diverse world cities – ranging from small fast-growing cities like Fort Collins to shrinking cities like Detroit, from stable cities with aging infrastructure cities like New York and Minneapolis to young emerging cites in India trying to leap-frog into next generation infrastructure systems.

Working with diverse cities provides rich learning experiences to students, to faculty and to policymakers, as they compare and contrast infrastructure solutions on the ground.

One strength of this network is that each of the nine universities – University of Minnesota, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, Colorado State University, Florida State University, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, Ohio State University, University of Michigan, and University of Texas-Austin — is working with its local city, as well as with industry partners such as Ecolab, Xcel Energy, and ICF International. In addition, the network’s policy partners such as ICLEI USA, the National League of Cities and the International City Managers Association bring immense capacity to disseminate the findings of the network to more than 29,000 communities in the U.S. and globally.

For more information and a complete list of network partners, visit sustainablehealthycities.org.

– Kate Jeracki

This article was originally posted by Colorado State University.


NSF Funds $12M Research Network to Build the Healthy, Sustainable, Livable Cities of the Future

Co-directors, left to right, Patricia Culligan, Anu Ramaswami, and Ted Russell. The four-year, $12 million project they're leading aims to create the cities of the future — cities that are environmentally sustainable, healthy for their citizens, and places people want to live. They network includes nine universities, public policy groups, industry partners and major metropolitan areas across the United States and India.
August 11, 2015

Ted Russell will help lead a new Sustainability Research Network anchored at Georgia Tech, University of Minnesota and Columbia University

How will we build the cities of the future in a sustainable way?

A new National Science Foundation-funded research network will connect scientists at nine universities with infrastructure groups, public policy experts, and industry partners to reimagine cities. Georgia Tech will be an anchor of the $12 million network, which will be led by the University of Minnesota, and School of Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Ted Russell will serve as a co-director.

“We’re bringing some very different communities together more than past projects have done,” Russell said. “We are getting the engineering community, the health community, the atmospheric sciences community, the economics communities, the policy communities in the same virtual room to look to the future.”

“We’re looking at real-life cities and figuring out how to make these cities work better and how to help cities [in general] evolve.”

The idea is to reimagine infrastructure — energy grids, road networks, green spaces, and food and water systems — to create cities that are highly functional, that promote the health of residents and the environment, and that have that intangible “vibe” that makes them desirable places to live and work.

“We have to think in new ways about a city’s physical infrastructure to develop sustainable solutions,” said Anu Ramaswami, the project’s director and a professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. “Understanding that these physical systems are interconnected serves as a foundation for this work. For example, urban farms wouldn’t work very well without thinking about water, energy and transportation infrastructure as well as people, markets and policies.”

The network will use cities across the United States and in India as “test beds” for its work, a unique approach that Russell said means the outcome of the network’s studies will have significant impact. Atlanta is one of those cities.

“One of the points we made with this proposal is that it’s action-oriented, with the idea that the output of this project is not papers, it’s actually actions,” he said. “[We will] not only specify what actions might be taken but actually help realize those actions.”

The project, called a Sustainability Research Network in NSF parlance, runs for four years.

“Real success at the end of those four years would be one or more cities — having worked with us from the beginning — take actions that will lead to improving the livability of their city,” Russell said. “That could come in multiple ways: improved transit options, improved plans for water usage, effective urban farming, or strategies to improve air quality that they’ve actually implemented and to inform their citizenry of how to reduce their exposures to harmful chemicals and lead more healthy lives.”

The network stretches beyond civil and environmental engineering at Tech: Nisha Botchwey, an associate professor in the School of City and Regional Planning, and Peter Webster, a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, will have significant roles, as will Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (better known as CEISMC).

In fact, Botchwey will lead the education component of the project, which includes outreach to K-12 students, college graduate students and Native American communities. Those efforts will include an innovative interdisciplinary summer school at the network’s nine partner schools.

Russell said Tech’s wide-ranging involvement in the project fits in perfectly with the Institute-wide focus in the coming decade on sustainability and community. Officials announced the Serve•Learn•Sustain initiative earlier this year as part of the Institute’s reaccreditation process.

“This fits in extremely well with that, because we are hitting all of those pieces in [the project],” Russell said.

Learn more about the project in the University of Minnesota news release and on the project’s website.

This story was originally posted by the Georgia Institute of Technology.