First RCN-SRN Webinar Series: Decoupling Urban Density’s Benefits and Costs by Prof. Clint Andrews

People Love some aspects of cities and hate others. We may love the excitement and access to jobs, while hating the congestion and pollution, for example. As the proportion of the population living in urban areas continues to rise in every region of the world, it will become more important to seize the benefits of urbanization while avoiding the costs. Yet a key indicator of urbanization, population density, is the focus of intense and ideological debate among those who think about settlement patterns.

This webinar presents recent evidence on the correlates of urban density, the relation between urban density and scale, and the implications for urban sustainability. This research suggests that decoupling the good and bad effects of urban density is feasible if we target specific problems, make multi-level improvements including the design of human-scale features, and encourage the individual agency of urban dwellers.

About the Speaker

Clinton J. Andrews is Professor of Urban Planning and Policy Development, and Associate Dean for Planning and New Initiatives at the Edward J. Bloustein School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. His research addresses behavioral, policy and planning questions related to energy use in the built environment. He has published over 100 scholarly and popular articles, and his books include Humble Analysis: The Practice of Joint Fact-Finding, Regulating Regional Power Systems, and Industrial Ecology and Global Change. He is co-editor of the Journal of Planning Education and Research.

About the RCN-SRN Webinar Series

This is the first in a series of monthly RCN-SRN Online Research Seminar Series, a collaboration aimed at sharing research accomplishments across the Research Coordination Network on Sustainable Cities and the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network. Contact:

Livestream seminar 3/30: Transportation effects on Air Pollution and Public Health

On Wednesday, March 30th at 4:00PM CDT, we invite you to join this RCN-related seminar on Livestream:

Speaker: Dr. Oliver Gao (Cornell University)

Hosted by Dr. Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota)


From Transportation Systems to Air Pollution and Public Health—Are We Doing the Right Thing, and Doing it Right?

Transportation-related air pollution, GHG emissions and energy problems are a significant issue in the U.S., China, and across the world. The World Health Organization estimates that urban air pollution causes 200,000 deaths per year worldwide and that it will be responsible for 8 million premature deaths from 2000 to 2020. Sacrificing transportation needs for environmental quality is simply infeasible since transportation provides a vital wheel for economic development. How do we meet the transportation needs in the age of development without sacrificing environment and energy sustainability?


Dr. Gao, Director of Cornell Systems Engineering, is an Associate Professor with the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. His research focuses on quantitative modeling and development of engineering systems solutions for sustainable and intelligent infrastructure and lifeline systems, low carbon and low emission transportation systems, and the closely related environment (especially air quality and climate change)-energy systems. He also studies alternative transportation/energy technologies, systems innovation, and green supply chain and logistics.

The event will be livestreamed hereon the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Youtube channel.

More information can be found here.

RCN E-Newsletter February 2016

This month the RCN Sustainable Cities ENewsletter highlights the following RCN members’ activities:

Please join us, and check out the exciting news from our RCN and SUS members and opportunities below. As always, if you have any information you would like to add to future ENewsletters, please send that information to Thank you for all that you do to further the RCN Sustainable Cities initiative.

Express Your Interest in RCN Virtual Collaboratory Calls

RCN Virtual Collaboratory Calls are set up online to share and discuss research on Sustainable Cities. Are you interested in taking part in the next sessions? Let us know!


RCN Panel at NCSE Conference on Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Members from the RCN presented at the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE)’s  16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment: The Food-Energy-Water Nexus. The conference was held in Washington DC January 19-21, 2016.

Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota) and Patricia Culligan (Columbia University) co-moderated a panel entitled: “The Nexus in Cities: Measuring Impact and Exploring Solutions”. Panel speakers included: Dana Boyer (University of Minnesota), Oliver Gao (Cornell University), Debbie Goettel (City of Richfield, MN), Joshua Newell (University of Michigan) and Timothy Smith (University of Minnesota). Topics discussed ranged from urban gardens in Detroit and New York, to Delhi’s water and greenhouse gas emissions footprints, to carbon emissions and air pollution of food supply chains. The work was well received by the many policy makers and academics in attendance.
More information on the conference can be found here:


PCAST Report: “Technology and the Future of Cities”

On February 23, 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a Report to the President on Technology and the Future of Cities. Growing urbanization presents the United States with an opportunity to showcase its innovation strength, grow its exports, and help to improve citizens’ lives – all at once. Seizing this triple opportunity will involve a concerted effort to develop and apply new technologies to enhance the way cities work for the people who live there.

Sybil Derrible Wins NSF CAREER Award with Urban Metabolism Research

Sybil Derrible, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Materials Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will receive the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award and $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Professor Derrible’s project,  “Understanding the Fundamental Principles Driving Household Energy and Resource Consumption for Smart, Sustainable, and Resilient Communities”, combines urban metabolism with complexity theory. “The funding will help to discover the fundamental principles that govern how location and lifestyle matters for energy and resource consumption,” said Derrible. A better understanding of energy flows in cities will provide planners and engineers with information that will enable them to design smarter and more resilient infrastructure systems that are decentralized and distributed.
Read more here:


Publications by the International City/County Management Association

A new research report published by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) explores the role of local governments and citizen engagement in transforming distressed neighborhoods.  Public housing and subsidized rentals are a way of life for many families in cities throughout much of the U.S. and it has become clear that traditional approaches to neighborhood and community planning are not producing the desired results. Evaluating the Role of Local Government and Project Stakeholder Engagement in Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Planning and Implementation summarizes ICMA’s three-year study of Salisbury, North Carolina; Suffolk, Virginia; and Norfolk, Virginia, and their use of grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement a Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Plan.  This comprehensive approach to neighborhood planning takes into account the economic and social needs of residents in public and assisted housing beyond those of their physical environment.
For more information, contact Cory Fleming, Senior Technical Specialist and Program Director  at

To better understand opportunities for local governments to support food systems through policies, programs, plans, and partnerships, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)and the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems conducted a benchmark survey in 2012 and fielded a follow-up survey in 2015. The preliminary 2015 results from more than 2,200 respondents highlight trends and changes in many areas of community food systems, including production, processing, distribution, access, and disposal, and paint a clearer picture of the motivations and potential roles for local governments and their partners in food system development.
ICMA and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems will release the full findings of the 2015 survey in the coming months. In the meantime, the Local Government Knowledge Network features a number of resources to help communities and advocates with sustainable community food systems, including:

For more information, contact Andrea Fox, director, ICMA Center for Sustainable Communities, or Laura Goddeeris, specialist, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems,

Mark Reiner and Anu Ramaswami Define Remedial Secondary Infrastructure

Dr. Reiner and Dr. Ramaswami (University of Minnesota) published a paper in Journal of Infrastructure Systems entitled “What Is Remedial Secondary Infrastructure? Implications for Infrastructure Design, Policy for Sustainability, and Resilience.” Remedial Secondary Infrastructure (RSI) arises when individual households privately purchase additional infrastructure services to correct, or remediate, the already provided for primary infrastructure.

Read the full article here.

Apply for UIC’s Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy

This summer (August 4-16), the Energy Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago will host their 6th annual Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy. Entitled “Nexus,” the program will explore the intersection of energy and water, and the impact of that intersection on the environment.

To apply, applicants must submit an online application, a resume, and two recommendation letters for consideration. Application information, program information, and more can be found at the website ( Applications will be accepted through July 1, 2016.

Job Openings in Sustainability

  • The California Environmental Protection Agency is looking to hire a fuel and industrial sector inventory specialist to join California Air Resources Board’s (ARB) greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory team.  The job ad can be found here.  Application deadline is MARCH 10.
  • The Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University (CSU) invites applications for a tenure track professor in Sustainability Science at the rank of assistant or associate professor.

Publications by Dr. Kara Kockelman, University of Texas, on Shared Autonomous Electric Vehicles (SAEVs)

RCN member Dr. Kara Kockelman has contributed various papers to the Transportation Research Board 2016 on Shared Autonomous Electric Vehicles (SAEVs).

There are natural synergies between shared autonomous vehicle (AV) fleets and electric vehicle (EV) technology, since fleets of AVs resolve the practical limitations of today’s non-autonomous EVs, including traveler range anxiety, access to charging infrastructure, and charging time management. Fleet-managed AVs relieve such concerns, managing range and charging activities based on real-time trip demand and established charging-station locations.
The first paper demonstrates this by exploring the management of a fleet of shared autonomous (battery-only) electric vehicles (SAEVs) in a regional discrete-time, agent-based model. The simulation examines the operation of SAEVs under various vehicle range and charging infrastructure scenarios.
Operations Of A Shared, Autonomous, Electric Vehicle Fleet: Implications Of Vehicle & Charging Infrastructure Decisions

The second paper models the market potential of a fleet of shared, autonomous, electric vehicles (SAEVs). When SAEVs make their debut in cities, these vehicles will not exist in a vacuum. SAEVs will be competing against existing modes (private owned vehicles, transit, and non-motorized modes) for trip share. In this paper, the mode share of SAEVs is modeled and predicted to lie between 14 and 39%, when competing against privately-owned, manually-driven vehicles and city bus service.
Management of a shared, autonomous, electric vehicle fleet: implications of pricing schemes

Paper Published in Nature Climate Change

Submitted by Linda Shi, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Nature Climate Change recently published a paper proposing new areas of research on justice in climate adaptation.  The paper emerged from the memorial symposium held in honor of Professor JoAnn Carmin in December 2014. We hope you find this effort to honor JoAnn to be a helpful contribution, and look forward to continued discussion and collaboration.

Shi, Linda, Eric Chu, Isabelle Anguelovski, Alexander Aylett, Jessica Debats, Kian Goh, Todd Schenk, Karen C. Seto, David Dodman, Debra Roberts, J. Timmons Roberts & Stacy D. VanDeveer. 2016. “Roadmap towards justice in urban climate adaptation research.” Nature Climate Change 6: 131–137. Published online 27 January 2016.

A publicly-accessible blog version of the paper can be found in the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat, Adapting to Climate Change in Cities May Require a Major Rethink.

Urban Transitions Global Summit 2016 – Abstracts Due March 3rd


The RCN Sustainable Cities will be a Supporting Partner for the Urban Transitions Global Summit 2016 in Shanghai, China, September 5-9.

Oral and poster abstracts are invited by March 3, 2016 on the conference topics and should be submitted using the online abstract submission system.

Conference themes:

  • Economically competitive urban future
  • Sustainable and resilient urban future
  • Equitable and inclusive urban societies
  • Digitally supported urban futures

Details about the submission process can be found at

RCN Faculty to Present at Food-Energy-Water Nexus Conference in D.C.

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) is hosting its 16th annual conference in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21.  This year’s topic is the Food-Energy-Water Nexus.  Participants will fully understand how the three sectors are a system of interdependent components and how to develop solutions based on multi-sector engagement.

Faculty from the Research Coordination Network (RCN) on Sustainable Cities will be presenting the following symposia:

  • January 19th, 1:45 PM – Cities at the Nexus – Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota and RCN Lead PI) will be a part of a panel to introduce how the core needs of food, water, and energy can be, and are being, integrated into sustainable planning of cities and surrounding areas.
  • January 20th, 10:50 AM – The Nexus in Cities: Measuring Impact and Exploring Solutions – Panelists will discuss how urban residents, city planners, and policymakers can shape the sustainability of food, energy, and water demand and supply to cities. The discussion will be moderated by Anu Ramaswami and Patricia Culligan (Columbia University).
  • January 21, 9:45 AM – Systems-Based Modeling of FEW Nexus in Megacities – Joshua Sperling (National Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Colorado) will be a part of a panel to address challenges and complexity in the protection and interactions of FEW resources utilizing mathematical and GIS techniques, big data analytics, decision support tools, and “infrastructure ecology” methodologies.

The NSF-funded RCN grant seeks to develop an interdisciplinary network of researchers and practitioners from universities, national labs, nonprofit organizations, and private institutions who will coordinate their work on the overarching theme of Sustainable Cities. The focus is on reducing energy use, carbon emissions, and mitigating climate-risks to water supply and public health in cities.

The National Council for Science and the Environment is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the scientific basis for environmental decision-making.  Their national conference will bring together over 1,200 scientific, educational, business, civil society, and government professionals from diverse fields to explore the connections between science and decision-making associated with a particular high-profile environmental issue. Learn more about the event.

“The Cleanest Cities? It’s Not So Simple”: RCN research featured in New York Times

Professor Clint Andrews (Rutgers University) and Professor and SRN Director Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota) are quoted in this New York Times article on the variety of ways to assess a city’s efficiency when it comes to energy and impact on the environment.

The article is part of an ongoing series in Energy & Environment, Special Report: Energy for Tomorrow. The RCN Coordinator’s home town of Delft, Netherlands, is mentioned as having greater energy efficiency, due to being  one of “modest-sized cities that still have crops growing nearby and where you can walk to school or work.”

Read the full article here.

RCN Student Piece: Implementing the Urban Sustainable Development Goal in Atlanta and Delhi

A group of RCN students recently published a piece on urban sustainable development goals for the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) blog. Read their post. The authors of the piece include:

Dana Boyer, University of Minnesota, USA
Stefanie Brodie, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Joshua Sperling, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA
Eleanor Stokes, Yale University, USA
Alisa Zomer, Yale University, USA