PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Different ways cities have adapted to COVID-19
In the countless ways that the pandemic has forced our lives to change, the small adaptations made by many cities around the world demonstrates innovations both new and old. The "parklets" to expand outdoor dining areas in front of restaurants and cafes, the signs and information posted around public spaces, the streets and areas used to stage (hopefully) socially distant protests, or even the small interior design and layout changes in retail space to accommodate workers and customers alike. Different places have adapted different strategies, and all of them may reveal something about the people who use (and don't use) these adapted spaces. And we can attempt to study them using very low-tech methods like interviews, surveys, and direct observation! Projects around this could learn a lot from a little, and be a great entry point for students interested in urban form and how humans interact with their environment in novel ways.
Innovative construction and design technology
Globally, many companies have found and adopted different strategies for bringing building construction *off-site*, where a substantial portion of materials are pre-built in a factory and simply assembled on the actual construction site. This is often analogized to approaching construction as if it is a LEGO set, Ikea furniture, or even an automobile being manufactured, and usually reduces the time and cost required to build things. A recent surge of companies adapting similar strategies in the U.S. has met with new ideas and tools to make this transition successful. Projects in this space could include case studies of individual companies (remotely or locally), and attempt to identify truly unique aspects of the many different evolving strategies to improve the construction industry.
Sustainable design and renewable energy systems
Renewable energy growth continues to be a pressing topic for establishing truly "sustainable" electricity to millions of households worldwide. As with most climate-related projects, there are different questions at different scales: how does a homeowner or renter adopt solar for their own residence, and why should they? How does a regional utility provider plan its future power generation to make sure they can provide enough electricity to meet demand, while also trying to expand renewables? What issues still persist with renewable energy options, and how can we mitigate those?
Affordable Housing and Urban Design
Many cities around the world are struggling to provide enough housing, at affordable enough levels, to accommodate everyone who wants to live there. While there are *many* reasons for this (and different cities might have different reasons entirely), there are also many questions and strategies for improving the situation. Projects could include policy studies (what policies help, hurt, and/or complicate housing development? Where does funding come from?) at the city, state, and/or federal level; housing market assessments (how much *should* be built, and where?); who is receiving housing assistance, why do they need it, and how much? Different projects look at different scales of the problem, but all offer critical insight as to how and why housing is so unaffordable.