ECOdesyn Lab focuses on
• establishing collaboratory capability and problem-mapping methods to address hard cross–disciplinary problems requiring decision support to enable stakeholders to work effectively, e.g. sustainable remediation, energy, and eco-sustainability;
• the smart citizens/ smart systems feedback loop, illustrated by the smart card icon (right);
• smart communities and urban innovation, engaging diverse communities, via in person Round Tables, virtual web tools, and all the methods of the ECO-cafe (diagram below).
The Eco-Cafe method is used to generate ideas for sustainability programs to address challenges
that require cross-sectoral collaboration and innovation.
Half of the world's population lives in cities. By 2050 that percentage is predicted to rise to 75% (UN-Habitat, quoted in the Siemens Mega-cities Challenges report, 2008). So reducing the carbon footprint of cities will become increasingly critical.
As global urbanization continues, cities are increasingly recognized as complex, interacting systems, requiring data integration across transport, built environment, water and energy supply networks and the social fabric – evolving towards “smart infrastructure.”
To meet the growing challenges of complex urban environments, we need better, more integrated tools and methods that are interoperable across a range of information technology, science, business, and government policy disciplines. The tools needed to support complex decision-making across disciplines have not yet been built, while toolsthat do exist are not well integrated. For Kawasaki – Information City Zann Gill developed an ecosystem model that demands new tools and practices.
According to the Institute of Advanced Studies (Marcotullio and Boyle, 2003), "Sustainability can only be achieved when cities are approached as systems and components of nested systems in ecological balance with each other." The 2008 International Convention of the Metropolis Network of governments, comprised of more than 100 cities of more than a million people identified standing commissions focusing on six current priorities:
• urban mobility management,
• water management,
• metropolitan performance measurement (exchanging data among cities),
• financing of urban services and infrastructure, and
• comprehensive neighborhood regeneration and smart communities.
Digital technologies provide us with richer ways to visualize, manage and design our cities,
while also providing a platform for next generation "best practice" in integrated planning.
New digital measurement techniques, geo-spatial information systems, 3D interactive
visualization, electronic collaborative techniques, sensor networks, security systems,
and predictive models together can provide the tools needed to manage and improve our
large and complex urban areas with smart infrastructure. Eventually it should be possible
to model a city in its regional context in order to measure the performance of an entire
urban system and its environmental impact. This modeling capacity will be the first step
toward using integrated models to explore and generate future alternatives, prototyping
cities and entire construction projects digitally.
Coordinated construction of comprehensive digital models of cities, urban clusters, and
cities networked in their global context could cause a revolution in planning "best practices"
and urban growth management that can address the problems in our urban areas and the
impact of urban development on the eco-sustainability of our planet. Problems of excessive
energy use, over-burdened infrastructure and declining efficiency are urgent (Siemens).
Even piecemeal, digital technology has demonstrated potential to meet the challenge:
• Adaptive traffic systems cut trip times by 20% (Siemens/ Tyra);
• Building information models reduced construction mistakes by 40% (Stanford);
• Pervasive use of broadband could cut U.S. greenhouse emissions by 1 billion tons over 10
• Informed "green" urban planning could reduce US household energy consumption by
Mega-cities are struggling to be economically competitive, ecologically sustainable, and to
deal with fundamental scaling issues. Current planning processes do not provide adequate
decision support and there is much scope for adding intelligence to how we manage our built
environment and supporting infrastructure. Integration of current piecemeal research,
technology and skills is needed to address this grand challenge, providing opportunities
for government, industry and researchers.