Earth Institute Research Projects

SRN: Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy and Livable Cities

Lead PI: Ben Orlove , Professor Patricia J. Culligan , Anu Ramaswami, Armistead Russell, Yingling Fan

Unit Affiliation: Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED)

August 2015 - July 2020
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Several hundred cities in the US and abroad, including 40 of the world's most populous cities (the C40 cities) have announced goals that include environmental sustainability, health, climate-resiliency and livability. Engineered infrastructures - defined broadly to include the seven key sectors that provide water, energy, food, sanitation/waste management, transportation (connectivity and access) and public spaces to more than half the world's people living in cities today - are essential in achieving these multi-faceted societal goals. Increasingly, cities are exploring the proposition that movement from large centralized systems toward local or distributed infrastructure, combined with changes in user-behavior and corresponding changes in institutions and policy in all the above sectors - is a critical pathway in achieving the triple goals of environment, health and livability (EHL goals). However, this proposition has never been verified on the ground due to three key gaps in the science of developing EHL focused cities, namely: (i) lack of standard metrics for monitoring EHL urban outcomes; (ii) lack of understanding of the role of social actors - across multiple scales from the household to city/ regional government - in the adoption and stewardship of distributed infrastructure solutions, and (iii) lack of dynamic urban models that can represent the EHL outcomes associated with distributed infrastructure systems and explore city futures. This SRN will bring together a network of universities, cities and industry partners who, jointly, will co-develop the science of sustainability, practical knowledge and policy innovations that will enable urban infrastructure transformation toward environmentally-sustainable, healthy and livable (EHL) cities.

Three primary research thrusts will support this transformation of urban infrastructure. Theme 1 of the SRN will develop the science of integrated measurement of environmental sustainability, health and livability (EHL), capturing linkages, synergies and trade-offs, considering human-environment interactions with all the seven infrastructure sectors together. Theme 2 of the SRN will develop new principles for designing integrated social-infrastructural solutions, with engineering and social science fully assimilated across home-, neighborhood- and city-regional scales, drawing upon innovative field experiments underway in the SRN cities (7 U.S. and 4 Asian) linked with test beds in SRN research labs. Finally, Theme 3 will operationalize the new knowledge created in Themes 1 and 2, to describe the dynamic interactions between natural systems, urban design, infrastructures and people in a democratized simulation environment, which expands upon a platform used by cities across the globe to allow multiple stakeholders to explore city futures with distributed infrastructure scenarios based. The SRN will focus on linking research and education with concrete actions in SRN partner cities. By closely working with community, government and industry collaborators, the SRN will operationalize the Network's findings well beyond a research setting, enabling real-world impact. The SRN's focus on the role of distributed infrastructure in urban sustainability and the large data base the SRN will develop as part of the Theme 2 will pave the way for future research endeavors in urban sustainability. Among the SRN's outreach, training and education foci are: (i) training of Public Officials on design and implementation of coupled social-infrastructural solution through collaborations with our partner cities, and nationally- the National League of Cities, City Managers Association; (ii) a Summer REU program that engages Native Indian Students from a network of 6 Tribal Colleges - from the undergraduate level to graduate degrees, and (iii) an innovative interdisciplinary summer school on Integrated Infrastructure Solutions for Sustainable, Healthy and Livable Cities- for students at all 9 SRN Universities, connecting environmental sciences, infrastructure engineering, urban planning, social sciences, public affairs, and public health.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




Madeleine Thomson


Columbia Engineering


Georgia Institute of Technology



Ramaswami, A., Russell, A., Culligan, P., Sharma, K., Kumar, V.. "Meta Principles for Developing Smart Sustainable and Healthy Cities," Science, v.352, 2016.

Howard, B., Waite, M., Modi, V.. "Current and near-term GHG emissions factors from electricity production for New York State and New York City," Applied Energy, v.187, 2017.

Lal, R. M., Nagpure, A. S., Luo, L., Tripathi, S. N., Ramaswami, A., Bergin, M. H., & Russell, A. G.. "Municipal solid waste and dung cake burning: discoloring the Taj Mahal and human health impacts in Agra.," Environmental Research Letters, 2016.

Meerow, S., & Newell, J. P.. "Spatial planning for multifunctional green infrastructure: Growing resilience in Detroit," Landscape and Urban Planning, 2017.

Newell, J., Ramaswami, A. (Guest Editors). "Urban Food-Energy-Water Systems: Interdisciplinary, Multi-Scalar and Cross-Sectoral Perspectives," Environmental Research Letters, 2017.

Ramaswami, A., Boyer, D., Nagpure, A., Fang, A., Bogra, S., Bakshi, B., Cohen, E., Rao-Ghorpade, A.. "An urban systems framework to assess the trans-boundary food-energy-water nexus: implementation in Delhi, India," Environmental Research Letters, 2017.

Ramaswami, A., Russell, A. G., Culligan, P. J., Sharma, K. R., & Kumar, E. "Meta-Principles for Developing Smart, Sustainable and Healthy Cities," Science, 2016.

Waite, M., & Modi, V.. "Modeling wind power curtailment with increased capacity in a regional electricity grid supplying a dense urban demand," Applied Energy, 2016, p. 299.

Waite, M., E. Cohen, H. Torbey, M. Piccirilli, Y. Tian and V. Modi. "Global trends in urban electricity demands for cooling and heating," Energy, 2017.

Boyer, D. and Ramaswami, A.. "What is the contribution of city-scale actions to the overall food system?s environmental impacts? Assessing water, GHG, and land impacts of future urban food scenarios," Environmental Science and Technology, 2017.

Cao, J. and Cao, X. "Comparing importance-performance analysis and three-factor theory in assessing rider satisfaction with transit," Journal of Transport and Land Use, 2017.

Cao, X. Wu, X. & Y. Yuan. "Examining Built Environmental Correlates of Neighborhood Satisfaction: A Focus on Analysis Approaches," Journal of Planning Literature, 2018. doi:10.1177/0885412218765443

Chan, Gabriel, Isaac Evans, Matthew Grimley, Ben Ihde, and Poulomi Mazumder. "Design choices and Equity Implications of Community Shared Solar.," The Electricity Journal, v.30, 2017, p. 37.

Deslatte, A., Feiock R. Wassel, K.. "Urban Pressures and Innovations: Sustainability Commitment in the Face of Fragmentation and Inequality," Review of Policy Research, v.34, 2017, p. 700.

Elliott, R.M., Adkins, E.R., Culligan, P.L., & M.I. Palmer. "Stormwater infiltration capacity of street tree pits: Quantifying the influence of different design and management strategies in New York City.," Ecological Engineering, 2018, p. 157.

Feiock, R. Krause, R, Hawkins C.. "The Impact of Administrative Structure on the Ability of City Governments to Overcome Functional Collective Action Dilemmas: A Climate and Energy Perspective," Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 2017. doi:

Hawkins, C., Krause, R. Feiock, R, Curley, C.. "The Administration and Management of Environmental Sustainability Initiatives: A Collaborative Perspective," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 2017. doi:DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2017.1379959

Meerow, S., & Newell, J. P.. "Spatial planning for multifunctional green infrastructure: Growing resilience in Detroit. Landscape and Urban Planning," Landscape and Urban Planning, 2017.

Mohareb, E., Heller, M., Novak, P., Goldstein, B., Fonoll, X., & L. Raskin. "Considerations for Reducing Food System Energy Demand while Scaling Up Urban Agriculture," Environmental Research Letters, v.12, 2017.

Ramaswami, A., Tong, K., Fang, A., Lal, R. M., Nagpure, A. S., Li, Y., Yu, H., Jiang, D., Russell, A., Shi, L., Chertow, M., Wang, Y. & Wang, S.. "Urban cross-sector actions for carbon mitigation with local health co-benefits in China," Nature Climate Change, v.7, 2017, p. 736.

Servadio, J. & M. Convertino. "Optimal information networks: Application for data-driven integrated health in populations," Science Advances, v.4, 2018, p. e1701088.

Shen, H., Chen, Y., Russell, A. G., Hu, Y., Shen, G., Yu, H., Yu, H., Henneman, L., Ru, M., Huang, Y., Zhong, Q., Chen, Y., Li, Y., Zou, Y., Zeng, E., Fan, R., Tao, S.. "Impacts of rural worker migration on ambient air quality and health in China: From the perspective of upgrading residential energy consumption," Environment International, v.113, 2018, p. 290.

Shretha, S. Fonoll, X., Khanal, S.K.m & L. Raskin. "Biological strategies for enhanced hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass during anaerobic digestion: Current status and future perspectives," Bioresource Technology, 2017. doi:

Singh Nagpure, A., Reiner, M., & Ramaswami, A.. "Resource requirements of inclusive urban development in India: insights from ten cities," Environmental Research Letters, v.13, 2018.

Tong, K., Fang, A., Yu, H., Li, Y., Shi, L., Wang. Y., Wang, S., & A Ramaswami.. "Estimating the potential for industrial waste heat reutilization in urban district energy systems: method development and implementation in two Chinese provinces," Environmental Research Letters, v.12, 2017.

Waite, M., Cohen, E., Torbey, H., Piccirilli, M., Tian, Y., & Modi, V.. "Global trends in urban electricity demands for cooling and heating," Energy, v.127, 2017, p. 786.

Wang J., Lindsey G. "Equity Analyses of Bikeway Distribution in Minneapolis, MN. Transportation Research Record," Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2017. doi:

Wu, X. Cao, J., & J. Huting. "Using three-factor theory to identify improvement priorities for express and local bus services: An application of regression with dummy variables in the Twin Cities," Transportation Research Part A, 2018. doi:

Yi, H., Suo, L. Shen, R. Zhang J. Ramaswami, A. Feiock, R.. "Regional Governance and Institutional Collective Action for Environmental Sustainability," Public Administration Review, 2017. doi:10.1111/puar.12799

Yi. H. Feiock R. Berry F.. "Overcoming Collective Action Barriers to Energy Sustainability: A Longitudinal Study of Climate Protection Accord Adoption by Local Governments," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2017, p. 339. doi:

Zhu. Fan, Y.. "Commute Happiness in Xi?an, China: Effects of Mode, Duration, and Frequency," Journal of Transport and Land Use, 2018.

Cao, J. & X. Wu. (. "Exploring the importance of transportation infrastructure and accessibility to satisfaction with urban and suburban neighborhoods: An application of gradient boosting decision trees," Transportation Findings, 2019. doi:10.32866/7209

Chen, Y.C. & S.V. Dhople. "Tracing Power with Circuit Theory," IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 2019. doi:10.1109/TSG.2019.2918258

Conlon, C., Waite, M., & V. Modi.. "Assessing new transmission and energy storage in achieving increasing renewable generation targets in a regional grid.," Applied Energy, v.250, 2019, p. 1085.

Davis, T., Servadio, J., Lawal, A., Bates, J., Russell, A., Ramaswami, A., Convertino, M., & N. Botchwey.. "Demographic Inequalities in Health Outcomes and Air Pollution Exposure in the Atlanta Area and Its Relationship to Urban Infrastructure," Journal of Urban Health, 2018. doi:

Fan, Y., Brown, R., Das, K., & J. Wolfson. "Understanding Trip Happiness using Smartphone-Based Data: The Effects of Trip- and Person-Level Characteristics," Transport Findings, 2019. doi:10.32866/7124.

Hawkins, C., Krause, R. Feiock, R, Curley, C.. "The Administration and Management of Environmental Sustainability Initiatives: A Collaborative Perspective," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, v.61, 2018, p. 2015.

Irwin, E., Culligan, P., Fischer-Kowalksi, M., Law, K., Murtugudde, R. & S. Pfirman.. "Bridging barriers to advance global sustainability," Nature Sustainability, v.1, 2018, p. 324.

Nixon, P. and Ramaswami, A.. "Assessing Current Local Capacity for Agrifood Production To Meet Household Demand: Analyzing Select Food Commodities across 377 U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Environmental Science & Technology, v.52, 2018, p. 10511.

Nodojomian, A. & K. Kockelman.. "How Does the Built Environment Affect Interest in the Ownership and Use of Self-Driving Vehicles," Journal of Transport Geography, v.78, 2019, p. 115.

Petrovic, N., Simpson, T., Orlove, B., & Dowd-Uribe, B. "Environmental and social dimensions of community gardens in East Harlem," Landscape and Urban Planning, v.183, 2019, p. 36.

Plunz, R.A., Zhou, Y., McKewon, K., Yu, T., Uguccioni, L., Carrasco Vintimilla, M.I., Sutto, M.P.. "Twitter Sentiment in New York City Parks as Measure of Well-Being," Landscape and Urban Planning, v.189, 2019, p. 235.

Shetty, N. R. Hu, J. Hoch, B. Mailloux, M. Palmer, D. Menge, K. McGuire, W. McGillis, P. Culligan. "Quantifying Urban Bioswale Nitrogen Cycling in the Soil, Gas and Plant Phases," Water, v.10, 2018.

Shetty, N., R. Hu, B. J. Mailloux, D.Y Hsueh, W. R McGillis, M. Wang, K. Chandran, P. J Culligan.. "Studying the effect of bioswales on nutrient pollution in urban combined sewer systems," Science of the Total Environment, v.665, 2019, p. 944.

Tong, K., Fang, A., Li, Y., Shi, L., Wang, Y., Wang, S., & A. Ramaswami.. "The collective contribution of Chinese cities to territorial and electricity-related CO 2 emissions," Journal of Cleaner Production, v.189, 2018. doi:

Tong, K., Zhao, Z., Feiock, R., & Ramaswami, A.. "Patterns of urban infrastructure capital investment in Chinese cities and explanation through a political market lens," Journal of Urban Affairs, 2018. doi:

Waite, M. & V. Modi. "Impact of deep wind power penetration on variability at load centers," Applied Energy, v.235, 2019, p. 1048.

Wang J., Lindsey G.. "Do New Bike Share Stations Increase Member Use: A Quasi-Experimental Study," Transportation Research Part A, v.121, 2019.

X. Liu and B. R. Bakshi. "Ecosystem Services in Life Cycle Assessment while Encouraging Techno-Ecological Synergies," Journal of Industrial Ecology, v.23, 2018. doi:

Youm J., Feiock R.. "Interlocal Collaboration and Local Climate Protection," Local Government Studies, 2019.

Yuan, S., Stainsby, W., Li, M., Xu, K., Waite, M., Zimmerle, D., Feiock, R., Ramaswami, A., & Modi, V.. "Future energy scenarios with distributed technology options for residential city blocks in three climate regions of the United States," Applied Energy, v.237, 2019, p. 60.

Zhang, Z., Meerow, S., & J.P. Newell.. "Enhancing landscape connectivity through multifunctional green infrastructure corridor modeling and design," Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, v.38, 2018, p. 35.

Zhao, J.Z., Fonseca, C., & R. Zeerak.. "Stormwater Utility Fees and Credits: A Funding Strategy for Sustainability," Sustainability, v.11, 2019.


infrastructure urban infrastructure environmental sustainability and health and livability (ehl) urban design education