Humphrey Faculty Rethinking Urban Infrastructure

Urban Outfitting: Imagining cities for a changing world

Gabriel Chan, Yingling Fan, Anu Ramaswami, Greg Lindsey, and Jason Cao on the roof of the Minneapolis Convention Center, which holds one of the largest solar arrays in the Midwest. Photo: Bruce Silcox
"With as many as three billion more people expected to live in cities by 2050, there’s renewed interest in a topic often taken for granted: infrastructure. Many are wondering if there are options better than vast highways, elaborate power grids, and complex underground water systems. And cities are already trying localized, “distributed” systems such as community solar power, rain gardens, bike sharing, and urban farms. But what should such systems look like? How should they work? And how should we measure their impact—on efficiency and cost? What about their impact on people’s health and happiness?

Researchers from across the globe are asking such questions as part of a massive four-year effort to rethink urban infrastructure. Knit together in the sprawling Sustainable Healthy Cities network, they are attempting to provide the analyses needed to understand the effects of decisions cities have already made as well as envision what cities might do in the future. The network, supported by a $12 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is anchored at the University of Minnesota and led by Anu Ramaswami, the Charles M. Denny Jr. Chair of Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy at the Humphrey School.

The researchers are exploring seven components of urban infrastructure—energy, water, food supply, waste management, transportation, buildings, and green space—in an attempt to develop science-based tools that cities can use when making decisions, and identify infrastructure and policy innovations that enhance sustainability. They also are piloting strategies in the real world. The idea is to develop approaches that could be used everywhere, from fast-growing cities like Denver to shrinking cities like Detroit, and from stable cities with aging infrastructure, such as Minneapolis and New York City, to new cities in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. Southeast Asia alone is expected to have 250 new cities by 2030."

Read the entire piece here.

Crossposted from Humphrey School News, November 29th,
© 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement