Merging Research and Design

By Ashley Babbitt, public relations specialist, College of Architecture + Planning. Originally posted on July 3, 2017.

The University of Utah recently approved the creation of the Center for Ecological Planning and Design. The new center merges the provisional Ecological Planning Center and the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center — both in the College of Architecture + Planning — in a new partnership with the Global Change and Sustainability Center. The Center for Ecological Planning and Design is positioned to bridge the gaps between research and the design and planning fields, both within CA+P and across campus, with a focus on the built environment and the human communities that inhabit it.

Sarah Hinners, director for the provisional Ecological Planning Center, answers questions about the new center:

Tell us about the significance of the work of the new research center?

The built environment refers to buildings, roads, parking lots, etc. — all that stuff that humans build for ourselves to make life easier, safer and more comfortable or convenient. Cities are dominated by the built environment and it is becoming more and more the dominant habitat of humanity worldwide. But our environments are not always a healthy and life-enhancing and can be vulnerable to environmental changes and disasters. The built environment affects people’s lives and in turn, human communities shape and influence the built environment.

At the center, we’re focused on bringing together the people who study the built environment, such as scientists, social scientists and engineers, with the people who plan, design and build it. We have most of these disciplines represented here on campus, but they are widely dispersed among multiple colleges and dozens of departments. We’re interested in bringing these experts from across campus and outside of academia together to generate ideas and knowledge, ultimately to build better places for humans.

How will this center allow the college to collaborate in new ways?

There are challenges to interdisciplinary work. People in different disciplines and in different colleges on campus don’t necessarily speak the same language and it can be difficult to work with others without the feeling of stepping on toes or coming into competition with one another. There is a tremendous opportunity, one that is so often missed, to build collaborations and this potentially has the power to transform the way cities and communities take shape. The center is intended to build bridges between departments in the College of Architecture + Planning and across campus. By working under the umbrella of the Global Change and Sustainability Center, we offer a place to collaborate on disciplinary neutral ground — a place where people interested in resilient communities and built environments can meet in the middle and do great things together.

What types of research will emerge from this center?

We anticipate building a research portfolio of collaborative solutions for cities, including sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems, highly functional and beautiful urban ecosystems, strong inclusive communities and equitable access to a high quality of life in cities.

 Who are the key participants and collaborators of the center?

The center started out as the Ecological Planning Center, established as a provisional center in 2012 and funded with a donation from the Swaner family. As we grew, we came to understand just how interdisciplinary this work needed to be. A bunch of pieces fell into place within the past year that really opened important doors for us. One was an opportunity to join forces with the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center that has been doing research on the ecology of construction practices and building materials for a long time. The second was a desire, with the Global Change and Sustainability Center, to coalesce some of its expertise into a smaller number of topical themes, one of them being the built environment and communities.

In addition to myself, the new center includes Diane Pataki, associate professor of biology, and Ryan Smith, director of Integrated Technology in Architecture Center. The steering committee also includes members from city and metropolitan planning, parks recreation and tourism, mechanical engineering, biology, geology and geophysics, environment and sustainability studies, the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program in the Law School and a member of the local planning professional community.

How can a person get involved?

We’d love to engage with anyone who is interested in these topics through collaborative interdisciplinary research, education, events and symposia. One opportunity is to get involved with our work associated with Red Butte Creek here on campus. We have been working on a plan for revitalization of the U’s portion of the creek and the intent is to create a hub for implementation of the plan as well as the development of research and education programs associated with Red Butte Creek.

Our website: cepd.utah.edu
Contact Sarah Hinners: sarah.hinners@utah.edu

GCSC Grows Through Partnership

Global Change and Sustainability Center expands with new Center for Ecological Planning and Design and University Water Center.

The Global Change and Sustainability Center has expanded to include a partnership with two new centers; the University Water Center and the Center for Ecological Planning and Design. These centers bring scholars together around specific research themes to facilitate interdisciplinary strategies and solutions for local and global challenges.

The Center for Ecological Planning and Design at the University of Utah is the fusion of the existing Ecological Planning Center (EPC) and the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (ITAC), both in the College of Architecture and Planning, and an expansion into the interdisciplinary territory of the GCSC. The new CEPD focuses on research on the built environment and communities by interweaving research and practice in human, biophysical, and built systems – people, place, and design.

The University Water Center combines the research trajectory of the USAID-funded U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCASW) and the NSF-funded iUTAH project, forming a catalyzing hub for water research and associated activities at the University.

The GCSC has played a pivotal role in the creation of these two centers, helping connect expertise and interest from disparate departments across campus and offer infrastructure that supports the formation of these two new centers.

The GCSC and these two new centers are inclusive, interdisciplinary hubs for research and all faculty engaged in related work are invited to participate.  For more information contact: Steve Burian, Director of the Water Center, and Sarah Hinners, Director of the Center for Ecological Planning and Design.

 

NAVIGATING UNCHARTED WATERS: HOW THE HUMANITIES CAN GUIDE THE WAY

Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant

A man lies on a dismasted, rudderless fishing boat. He appears unimpressed by the sharks loitering off the port, and oblivious to the ship faintly on the horizon. This painting, “The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer, has been interpreted several times since its creation in 1899. Now, in our current climate chaos, Homer’s depiction of a shipwreck takes on a new meaning.

“Shipwreck captures both the moment of extreme danger, and the potential for rebuilding afterwards,” explained Jeffrey McCarthy, director of the University of Utah Humanities Program. “Shipwreck is an interesting symbol for us in this moment of a distressed and chaotic climate.”

McCarthy on the ocean.

McCarthy will discuss the symbol of shipwreck, the paintings of Winslow Homer, and point to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” as a way to illuminate the humanities’ crucial role in understanding human relationships to the ocean and our climate future at the GCSC Seminar Series on Tuesday, April 4 from 4-5 p.m. in 210 ASB.

The ocean is essential to life on earth. It covers over 70% of our planet’s surface, and plays a fundamental role in shaping climate zones—even in places hundreds of miles inland. The ocean regulates earth systems, supplies living and non-living resources, and provides social and economic goods and services. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere came from the ocean.

The ocean is the planet’s largest carbon sink. As it absorbs 26% of all CO2 released from fossil fuels, the chemistry of seawater is changing. The ocean has also absorbed 90% of atmospheric heat trapped by greenhouse gasses, which is increasing ocean temperatures. As life in the ocean changes, life on land will change too.

The ocean is less predictable, and less inhabitable for humans than its terrestrial counterparts. As we are entering a climate where there will be less predictability, analyzing seascapes can provide a way “to get our heads around what it means to occupy a space that is given to flux and uncertainty,” explained McCarthy.

Eastern Point Light by Winslow Homer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Environmental literary studies, and environmental studies more broadly, has been largely terrestrial,” McCarthy explained. “It is time to expand our notion of the planet we occupy to include not just the green parts, but also the blue parts.”

Art is a powerful addition to the data on climate change. By capturing how a culture responds to moments of uncertainty and risk, art shows the human-scale of climate change. In his talk, McCarthy will explore how cultural analysis of art can be a tool for understanding the past and navigating future crises.

“Art can remind us who we are, and who we want to be,” McCarthy concluded. “There is hope and beauty with art. We could all use more of both.”

Learn more at McCarthy’s lecture, “The Watery Part of the World: The humanities, the ocean and the Anthropocene” on Tuesday, April 4 at 4 pm in 210 ASB.

LEVEES AND LITIGATION: ADAPTIVE GOVERNANCE IN THE EVERGLADES

By Liz Ivkovich, Sustainability Office.

A vast network of canals and levees has turned Florida’s watery Everglades into a landscape of farms and suburban homes. Tight regulations mandate how water gets moved around, and where it gets delivered. But these water management practices are not without controversy or destructive environmental impacts, having transformed a formerly dynamic wetland into a heavily-managed and brittle system. When tested by increasing floods, the system can’t adapt.

What are the obstacles preventing the system from adapting? Through an investigation of the Everglades region and five other large-scale water systems, ecologist Lance Gunderson considers these obstacles and ways to overcome them.

Gunderson will present this research at the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar SeriesTuesday, March 21, 4-5 pm in ASB.

“0Merritt Pump Station construction Sept 2010 4” by JaxStrong is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When the floods come, a major obstacle facing the Everglades are how the resolutions to any water disputes are solved – through litigation. Litigation pushes the system into a “rigidity” that inhibits managers from making effective decisions, Gunderson explained.

“The system can’t adapt to find other ways of getting rid of flood water which would help the environment, rather than flushing water out to the coast,” Gunderson said.

Though tight regulation presents a number of obstacles, the system’s rigidity has one bright spot – it has forced people to work outside of the system to find solutions. These small groups of stakeholders like scientists, residents, and government officials Gunderson calls “adaptive governance structures.”

“Rather than work in those formal ways of resolving conflicts, which I think pushes the system into that rigidity, you are now seeing the emergence of small groups, who actually are working outside the existing formal system of governance. These groups want to think about ways of solving these complex problems rather than going to court,” Gunderson stated.

Gunderson was a part of one such adaptive governance group in the 1990’s. His group worked together to devise different ways of thinking about water management that ultimately led to a 12-billion dollar system restoration plan in the Everglades.

“Weir on Faka Union Canal” by JaxStrong is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In addition to the Everglades wetlands, Gunderson will explore adaptive governance case studies from five other regional scale water systems. These systems are the Columbia River, Klamath River, Middle Rio Grande River, Central Platte River, and the Anacostia River.

Gunderson’s research demonstrates his professional commitment to exploring ecological issues from interdisciplinary perspectives. When asked about why interdisciplinary matters to him, Gunderson explained that complex issues require input from many different disciplinary perspectives.

“In the real world, these environmental problems are not just ecological problems. They are people problems as much as they are ecological problems. So, you really need to think about ways of getting all of these stakeholders together to resolve the environmental issues.”

Learn more on Tuesday, March 21, 4-5 pm in ASB.

Cover Photo: “Scientist surveys a throw trap sample in the Phase I restoration area to evaluate prey availability for the wading birds and waterfowl” by JaxStrong is licensed under CC BY 2.0.