Focus Area Lead

Zoe Hamstead.

Zoé Hamstead

Assistant Professor

Department of Urban and Regional Planning


Stormwater and Green Infrastructure

For many cities in the Northeast U.S., aging stormwater infrastructure and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) continue to threaten the quality of rivers lakes, and other waterways through the release of contaminants during storm events. Green infrastructure practices such as green roofs, porous pavement, rain gardens, and vegetated swales often represents the most cost-effective means of eliminating CSOs, as well as providing additional environmental and social benefits to communities. However, metrics for performance assessment of GI systems are in the early stages of development, and there is a need for a more comprehensive approach to the design, deployment, and evaluation of urban GI components and systems. UB’s Sustainable Urban Systems group brings together expertise from architecture, planning, ecohydrology, civil environmental engineering, and computational science, in an active research program that includes partnerships with the Cities of Buffalo and Cleveland.

Climate Resilient Communities

The effects of climate change are frequently intensified by the high population density and coastal proximity of large cities. While most policy efforts have focused on reducing emissions of greenhouses gases, the warming trend will continue for several centuries even if emissions are stabilized because of the inertia of the global climate system. Therefore, city officials, urban planners, architects, and engineers will need to select effective adaptation strategies to build resilience to a changing climate. Although urban environments overlap with many systems (e.g., energy, transportation), most recent research has failed to address these issues in a cross-cutting manner, typically focusing on one issue at a time. To address this siloing, the RENEW-SUS faculty propose three major overlapping tasks:

  1. Integrated Assessments that integrate knowledge from environmental scientists, social scientists, and public policy analysts to build consensus around locally appropriate responses to climate change;
  2. Development of appropriate adaptation and resilience strategies into design, construction, and operation practices, and
  3. In-depth analysis of potential economic impacts from retrofits and maintenance, construction of new buildings, post-disaster reconstruction, and other climate-related events.

Sustainable Cities and “Big Data”

UB is a core partner in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub (BDHUB), which will enable cross-university networking on an unprecedented scale. The Hub will bring together individuals from a wide variety of disciplines, work environments, and perspectives to share data, data science approaches, software, resources, insights and knowledge about exploiting big data to address society’s challenging problems, including the development of “smart” buildings and cities. The Northeast Hub will create an infrastructure that links institutions across the region to facilitate knowledge sharing and new collaborations through workshops, visiting research positions, student ambassadors, virtual meetings, and other interaction mechanisms that are appropriate for particular applications and challenges. UB is engaged in multiple collaborations associated with the HUB, serving as the lead institution for the energy portion. In conjunction with this effort, researchers in Mechanical Engineering are engaged in research to empower comprehensive smart building operations and achieve considerable savings in energy usage, including

  1. development of novel computational paradigms to generate actionable intelligence typically hidden in data to generate smart building facility optimization plans and, 
  2. application of the generated actionable intelligence to enable decentralized but local actions in smart high performance buildings through the use of IoT (internet-of-things) devices.

Modeling of Urban Economic Systems

The development and application of “system level” simulation models has great potential to provide bridges across discipline and generate new projects and applications.  In the sustainable urban context, the RELU-TRAN (The Regional Economy, Land Use and Transportation) Model is a CGE (computable general equilibrium model) developed in 2000 by UB Professor of Economics Alex Anas.  RELU-TRAN simulate the interactions of the major markets is a model at the urban scale, where the urban economy is defined as one or more central cities and their suburbs and relevant exurban area (similar to the definition of a Metropolitan Statistical Area of the U.S. Census). Any new technology or any policy or plan introduced into the urban economy works through the markets to affect the behavior of consumers, businesses and the government, with intended and unintended consequences that must be analyzed to determine the full social benefits and costs to society. The urban sectors included in RELU-TRAN are: a) housing and non-residential floor space markets; b) real estate development and land use; c) labor markets; d) production of goods and services by aggregated SIC sectors; e) personal transportation markets; f) trade within the urban economy and with other regions; g) government. Three operational versions of the model housed at UB, representing the cities of Chicago MSA, Los Angeles, and the Greater Paris Region (France). Ongoing and planned research will expand the model capability to address problems within the domain of energy, environment, and water.

Related Centers and Projects