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 & Sustainability

    To promote the end of life cycle sustainability, the Center for Civic Innovation and THOR Industries partnered to investigate potential options for reuse and recyclability of RV disposal. Interns created a business plan based around an organization that would determine if the RVs were majorly or minorly damaged and then facilitate the best solutions for reuse and potential renovation in order to reduce waste.

  • 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.

  • Incubator Farms

    For this project, the interns were tasked with completing a literature review and market research on incubator farms. An Incubator Farm is a place where new and beginning farmers are provided with affordable access to land, technical training, and farm resources that offset the barriers that young, disadvantaged farmers face. Using the findings from their research, the team used ArcGIS to develop a color coded map of St. Joseph County which identifies assets for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and rates land for potential incubator farms.

  • Lead Service Lines

    CCI interns partnered with the City of South Bend Divisions of Engineering and Water Works to assist them in gathering data on the materials of water service lines entering houses throughout South Bend. The team developed a questionnaire that included educational materials and a step-by-step walkthrough for testing home water service lines. The City will use these figures to determine what areas should receive prioritization for next steps and remediation.

  • Municipal Separate Stormwater System

    In December 2021, Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) put into place Indiana’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer General Permit. To assist with meeting these new standards, CCI interns worked in coordination with the City of South Bend Division of Engineering to develop a Rapid Trash Assessment (RTA) Pilot Program. The team implemented this program at 12 sites around the city and analyzed the data to recommend future actions for each of the pilot sites.

  • 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.

  • Rum Village Neighborhood Traffic Calming

    CCI and the City of South Bend Engineering Department partnered to create a unique embedded internship experience. For this project interns collected and analyzed traffic data, facilitated and presented at two community meetings, and created and presented a proposal to the City Engineering Department for traffic calming in the Rum Village Neighborhood.

  • THOR

    THOR Industries and Elkhart Catalyst Interns partnered to create a roadmap to sustainability for the interior of the Sonic 231 VRL trailer. With the guidance of their mentors, the interns designed a sustainability package for this RV that included eco-friendly alternatives for interior elements including flooring, cabinets, cushions, and upholstery.

  • 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.

  • Urban Sustainability and Resiliency

    CCI partnered with the City of South Bend Forester to modify the existing tree planting program application that included a distribution criteria that insured trees were planted in areas in need first. This team also started the process with the Department of Public Works to acquire three additional lots for new native tree nurseries.

Partner Organizations

  • City of South Bend
  • City of Elkhart
  • emNet
  • Elkhart Community Schools
  • Riley High School
  • Tolson Center for Excellence

Related Faculty

  • Dr. Jay Brockman

  • Dr. Alan Hamlet

  • Dr. Tracey Kijewski-Correa

  • Dr. Rob Nerenberg

  • Dr. Kevin Walsh

  • Dr. Danielle Wood