The research agenda for the next five years focuses on projects that foster an integrated, holistic, and comprehensive vision for urban sustainability. Towards that end, with colleagues from engineering, architecture, urban planning, and geography, this research group focuses on two primary areas: Urban Infrastructure and Form and Urban Consumption and Commodity Networks.
With the dramatic growth of urban areas and the majority of the world’s population now living in urban settings, cities have become dominant demand drivers in global resource cycles. Globalization processes have intertwined cities with distant places and spaces through system interactions that include the exchange of food, energy, water, materials, capital, and the like. City and ‘hinterland’ have become highly interconnected and interdependent at multiple spatial, temporal, and jurisdictional scales. Cities are increasingly evolving into agglomerated networks of polycentric urban regions, often referred to as megaregions that are spread over large territories with interdependent infrastructure, transportation networks, economies, ecologies, cultures, labor markets, infrastructure, and land use systems. Vast territories of land dedicated to the production, extraction, processing and transportation of materials and resources and their associated networks can no longer be seen as external to urban development, but need to be considered part of the urban “system”.
Thus, cities are complex, adaptive, emergent systems composed of sub-systems—built environment, metabolic flows, governance networks, and social dynamics—that themselves are multi-scalar, networked, and often strongly coupled. Addressing urban sustainability issues in a thoughtful and integrated way, therefore, requires combining disciplinary-bound strengths and perspectives. Differences in epistemology and disciplinary culture can make this synthesis a challenge, but it is necessary to develop a deeper understanding of nature-society interactions; to enable cross-fertilization of novel theories, methods, and approaches; and to provide innovative and transformative responses to societal problems.