skip to main content

Title: Conceptual frameworks facilitate integration for transdisciplinary urban science
Abstract There are urgent calls for developing a comprehensive and globally-relevant urban science that emphasizes convergence among disciplines and practice. Advancing theory and conceptual frameworks is critical to developing a new urban systems science. We synthesize five frameworks that address features identified in calls for global urban science. The frameworks address the overarching urban conditions of complexity, diffuseness, connectivity, and diversity of cities across the globe. The frameworks also help evaluate how a project or study may advance sustainability. The metacity concept, a spatially scalable representation of mosaic change in urban systems, demonstrates how the frameworks apply to increasingly extensive, spatially heterogeneous, and dynamic urban regions. The metacity concept helps avoid static and isolated plans and management approaches and provides a conceptual foundation for an interdisciplinary urban systems science. The frameworks suggest a practical checklist that may help interventions, strategies, and research better align with goals for transforming urban systems toward sustainability.
Authors:
; ;
Award ID(s):
1934933 1444755 1637661 1927167 1927468 1855277
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10219254
Journal Name:
npj Urban Sustainability
Volume:
1
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2661-8001
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The field of sustainability science has grown significantly over the past two decades in terms of both conceptual development and empirical research. Systems-focused analysis is critical to building generalizable knowledge in the field, yet much relevant research does not take a systems view. Systems-oriented analytical frameworks can help researchers conceptualize and analyze sustainability-relevant systems, but existing frameworks may lack access or utility outside a particular research tradition. In this article, we outline the human–technical–environmental (HTE) framework, which provides analysts from different disciplinary backgrounds and fields of study a common way to advance systems-focused research on sustainability issues. We detail a step-by-step guide for the application of the HTE framework through a matrix-based approach for identifying system components, studying interactions among system components, and examining interventions targeting components and/or their interactions for the purpose of advancing sustainability. We demonstrate the applicability of the HTE framework and the matrix-based approach through an analysis of an empirical case of coal-fired power plants and mercury pollution, which is relevant to large-scale sustainability transitions. Based on this analysis, we identify specific insights related to the applicability of upstream and downstream leverage points, connections between energy markets and the use of pollution control technologies, andmore »the importance of institutions fitting both biophysical dynamics and socioeconomic and political dynamics. Further application of the HTE framework and the identification of insights can help develop systems-oriented analysis, and inform societal efforts to advance sustainability, as well as contribute to the formulation of empirically grounded middle-range theories related to sustainability systems and sustainability transitions. We conclude with a discussion of areas for further development and application of the HTE framework.

    « less
  2. This article offers a conceptual understanding and easily applicable guidelines for sustainable urban infrastructure design by focusing on the demand for and supply of the services provided by seven urban infrastructure systems. For more than 10,000 years, cities have evolved continuously, often shaped by the challenges they had to face. Similarly, we can imagine that cities will have to evolve again in the future to address their current challenges. Specifically, urban infrastructure will need to adapt and use less energy and fewer resources while becoming more resilient. In this article, starting with a definition of sustainability, two urban infrastructure sustainability principles (SP) are introduced: (i) controlling the demand and (ii) increasing the supply within reason, which are then applied to seven urban infrastructure systems: water, electricity, district heating and cooling and natural gas, telecommunications, transport, solid waste, and buildings. From these principles, a four-step urban infrastructure design (UID) process is compiled that can be applied to any infrastructure project: (i) controlling the demand to reduce the need for new infrastructure, (ii) integrating a needed service within the current infrastructure, (iii) making new infrastructure multifunctional to provide for other infrastructure systems, and (iv) designing for specific interdependencies and decentralizing infrastructure ifmore »possible. Overall, by first recognizing that urban infrastructure systems are inherently integrated and interdependent, this article offers several strategies and guidelines to help design sustainable urban infrastructure systems.« less
  3. Growing in popularity, the circular city framework is at the leading-edge of a larger and older transitional dialogue which envisions regenerative, circular, and symbiotic systems as the future of urban sustainability. The need for more research supporting the implementation of such concepts has been often noted in literature. To help address this gap, this holistic review assesses a range of pertinent sustainability frameworks as a platform to identify actionable strategies which can be leveraged to support and implement circular city goals. This assessment is grounded in a holistic overview of related frameworks across interdisciplinary and scalar domains including circular city, the food-water-energy nexus, circular economy, bioeconomy, industrial symbiosis, regenerative design, and others. Building on these interrelationships, the applied strategies espoused within these publications are synthesized and assessed in the context of circular city implementation. From an initial 250 strategies identified in literature, thirty-four general implementation strategies across six thematic areas are distinguished and discussed, finding strong overlaps in implementation strategies between frameworks, and opportunities to further develop and harness these synergies to advance circular city toward sustainable urban futures.
  4. Sustainability is a vital interdisciplinary concept to address within engineering education. Furthermore, the natural connections that exist between sustainability and social justice provide an optimal opportunity to integrate both into curricula. We argue that engineering curricula ought to include sustainability and social justice so future engineers are trained to understand both societal and technical implications of their work, while acknowledging the challenges engineering faculty may face in conceptualizing social justice or social sustainability. We then highlight how new sustainable design rating systems, such as Envision and The Living Building Challenge, embed inclusion and social justice into their ratings and how these sustainability rating systems can help engineering faculty bring social justice into their classrooms in ways that meaningfully link to engineering content. Finally, we present two examples of how sustainability and social justice can be incorporated into the civil engineering curriculum through inclusive pedagogy and new curricula: 1) a semester-long effort to document, design, and improve the inclusive pedagogical practices in a first-year engineering course that included the theme of sustainability throughout much of the class meetings; and 2) a new assignment about the Envision rating system and the societal implications of rebuilding a major component of regional infrastructure. Wemore »conclude with recommendations that other instructors can use to begin incorporating social justice in their courses.« less
  5. Despite increased calls for the need for more diverse engineers and significant efforts to “move the needle,” the composition of students, especially women, earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering has not significantly changed over the past three decades. Prior research by Klotz and colleagues (2014) showed that sustainability as a topic in engineering education is a potentially positive way to increase women’s interest in STEM at the transition from high school to college. Additionally, sustainability has increasingly become a more prevalent topic in engineering as the need for global solutions that address the environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability have become more pressing. However, few studies have examined students’ sustainability related career for upper-level engineering students. This time point is a critical one as students are transitioning from college to industry or other careers where they may be positioned to solve some of these pressing problems. In this work, we answer the question, “What differences exist between men and women’s attitudes about sustainability in upper-level engineering courses?” in order to better understand how sustainability topics may promote women’s interest in and desire to address these needs in their future careers. We used pilot data from the CLIMATE survey given tomore »228 junior and senior civil, environmental, and mechanical engineering students at a large East Coast research institution. This survey included questions about students’ career goals, college experiences, beliefs about engineering, and demographic information. The students surveyed included 62 third-year students, 96 fourth-year students, 29 fifth-year students, and one sixth-year student. In order to compare our results of upper-level students’ attitudes about sustainability, we asked the same questions as the previous study focused on first-year engineering students, “Which of these topics, if any, do you hope to directly address in your career?” The list of topics included energy (supply or demand), climate change, environmental degradation, water supply, terrorism and war, opportunities for future generations, food availability, disease, poverty and distribution of resources, and opportunities for women and/or minorities. As the answer to this question was binary, either “Yes,” or “No,” Pearson’s Chi-squared test with Yates’ continuity correction was performed on each topic for this question, comparing men and women’s answers. We found that women are significantly more likely to want to address water supply, food availability, and opportunities for woman and/or minorities in their careers than their male peers. Conversely, men were significantly more likely to want to address energy and terrorism and war in their careers than their female peers. Our results begin to help us understand the particular differences that men and women, even far along in their undergraduate engineering careers, may have in their desire to address certain sustainability outcomes in their careers. This work begins to let us understand certain topics and pathways that may support women in engineering as well as provides comparisons to prior work on early career undergraduate students. Our future work will include looking at particular student experiences in and out of the classroom to understand how these sustainability outcome expectations develop.« less