Urban Environmental Sustainability and Resilience

With climate change, cities are experiencing increased exposure to environmental stressors, such as heat, cold, and flooding. Consequently, the need for understanding how best to design, plan, and develop resilient and sustainable communities has never been greater. Challenges and opportunities abound in legacy industrial cities. For example, cities may now use technology to increase the efficiency of aging infrastructure, thereby increasing regional surface water quality through managed flows to municipal treatment plants. These advances, coupled with the possibility of creative green infrastructure applications in underutilized urban lands, provide opportunities to further our understanding how to re-inhabit neighborhoods of legacy industrial cities more sustainably.

The Center for Civic Innovation supports research that contributes to our understanding of planning and developing sustainable, resilient urban areas – with particular interest in the possibilities presented by integrating new technologies and decades of research on natural systems and ecosystem services from rural areas to inform sustainable urban systems research.

Related Projects

  • Advanced Manufacturing

    To address the issue of a lack of affordable housing stock in the region, the Center for Civic Innovation and Commodore Homes Corporation are partnering to increase efficiency in the local production of modular homes by analyzing material usage and waste. By increasing efficiency and improving overall production costs, homes will be more affordable for low-income individuals and families.

  • Big Data

    A complex hydrology occurs between Bowman Creek and leaking sewer/water pipes that run near to the stream, including leakage both into the pipe and out of the pipe depending on weather and soil conditions. The City of South Bend has invested in lining the pipes to reduce leakage, and CCI is collaborating with them to understand the effectiveness of this tactic by analyzing data from hundreds of sensors prior to and after the intervention.

  • Native Tree Nurseries (NTN)

    South Bend is at about 50% the capacity it could be at for tree coverage within an urban setting, and Native Tree Nurseries (NTN) are one solution to improving sustainability and resilience. CCI is working with the City of South Bend to conduct a tree canopy gap analysis using GIS field data collection and explore a business model for planting, maintaining, and transplanting NTNs across the city.

  • Recycling Analysis

    Recycling is a service paid for by the City of Elkhart, but few people take full advantage of the service. CCI is partnering to understand and improve the recycling and waste dynamics in the City of Elkhart by analyzing different neighborhoods based on geography and socioeconomic factors. An online tool is being developed that increases public knowledge and participation in proper recycling and waste management practices.

  • River Marker

    In early 2020 a low-head dam was removed from the Elkhart River - CCI is partnering with the City of Elkhart to conduct historical background research on the low-head dam and the benefits of its removal. This research will be useful in the design and installation of a historical marker near the former site of the dam.

  • Tolson Center Rain Garden

    In anticipation of an expansion project of the Tolson Community Center, CCI and the City of Elkhart are redesigning the current retention pond area to beautify and enhance current water control features. This new design will continue to capture the stormwater drainage from the site while integrating wetland characteristics. Educational signage will also be designed and installed for public display.

Partner Organizations

  • City of South Bend
  • City of Elkhart
  • emNet

Related Faculty

  • Dr. Jay Brockman

  • Dr. Alan Hamlet

  • Dr. Tracey Kijewski-Correa

  • Dr. Rob Nerenberg

  • Dr. Kevin Walsh

  • Dr. Danielle Wood