Helping cities to thrive
How can we make our cities healthier, happier and more resource-efficient?
More than £216m has been invested as part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) by the EPSRC and other partner organisations to create a network of new urban experimental facilities, conducting world-leading research to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.
The Sheffield Urban Flows Observatory is a £2.4m project under this initiative to enable characterisation of how Sheffield as a city ‘works’, how its constituent systems function and interact, so we can understand how Sheffield can thrive within the carrying capacity of the planet. The Departments of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and Civil and Structural Engineering are working in collaboration to gather and analyse city data.
The aim is to use cutting-edge research to make Sheffield a more sustainable, productive and happier place for those that live and work in the city and to learn how this can help other cities around the world achieve the same goals.
Issues such as how to reduce our carbon footprint and improve air quality can only be addressed if we have a broader systemic understanding of the challenges and the underlying processes that make a city function.
Professor Daniel Coca
Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering
The team is developing a comprehensive platform for monitoring the city, including using fixed and mobile sensors – such as air quality sensors, weather stations and thermal cameras – to gather information on energy, air quality, materials, resources, food and green spaces. This feeds in to a computational infrastructure which stores, analyses and visualises the data generated in real-time.
Director, Professor Martin Mayfield (Civil and Structural Engineering), added: “Undertaking radical change in cities has been likened to doing open-heart surgery on someone running a marathon. We can’t afford for things to stop, but we need to change the way cities function if we are going to address the significant local and global challenges we face.”
Co-Director, Professor Daniel Coca (Automatic Control and Systems Engineering) said: “Issues such as how to reduce our carbon footprint and improve air quality can only be addressed if we have a broader systemic understanding of the challenges and the underlying processes that make a city function.”
Co-Director, Dr Danielle Densley Tingley (Civil and Structural Engineering), commented: “One of the biggest challenges humanity currently faces is reducing greenhouse gases in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. To address this at a city scale, it is crucial that we have a good understanding of how, and where, we use energy and resources, in order to identify where the most effective opportunities are for reduction. Gaining this understanding is a core aim of the Urban Flows Observatory.”
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