cities of tomorrow

By 2050, it is estimated that three billion additional people will inhabit cities throughout worldwide. Translated: Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

The University of Michigan is one of nine research universities collaborating in an international effort to create cities of the future that will accommodate this growth. Funded by a $12 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Sustainability Research Network, the project brings together scientists, industry leaders and policy partners to create cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment and are desirable places to live and work.

The project, titled “SRN: Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities,” will focus on ways to improve the urban infrastructure, including energy grids, road networks, green spaces and food and water systems. It will connect research universities, infrastructure firms and policy groups in major metropolitan cities in the United States and India.

Green infrastructure includes storm water management projects such as green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales (storm water runoff conveyance systems that provide an alternative to storm sewers) and tree-lined streets, as well as a city’s greenways, parks, urban farms and protected river basins.

Michigan researchers and their partners will identify optimal sites for future green infrastructure and urban agriculture development. Partners in the Michigan portion of the project include Detroit Future City, the Southeast Council of Michigan Governments, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

The project includes 25 faculty members from the nine universities and will involve more than 40 graduate students conducting research in cross-university interdisciplinary teams.