Urban Systems

urban systems icon

Building with Life in Mind

With cities growing and more and more people moving to urban areas, the need to find and implement sustainable, healthy, and affordable solutions are essential and urgent. Penn State researchers collaborate across disciplines to identify and implement solutions on a global scale.

Sustainable Development

The United Nations projects that nearly 70% of the world’s populations will live in cities by 2050. Across the globe, the trend toward urbanization is driving resource needs and impacts with water, food, and energy while disparately impacting low income/minority populations.  

To that end, determining and implementing sustainable, healthy, and affordable solutions for urban areas is essential and urgent.

Moreover, it will require extensive interdisciplinary collaboration to adequately meet the needs of infrastructure, planning, finance, energy, engineering, transportation, utilities, and more.

Penn State has a strong history of innovative urban solutions, and researchers continue to focus on the needs of cities and how to move them ahead to meet the global demand.

For more than two decades, Esther Obonyo, associate professor of engineering design and architectural engineering and director of the Global Building Network, has served as a global expert on buildings.

Urban Systems Research


Featured IEE Researchers

Professor, John and Willie Leone Department of Energy & Mineral Engineering (EME)
Assistant Professor, John and Willie Leone Department of Energy & Mineral Engineering (EME)

Featured News

Addressing the energy, environmental complexities of urban areas

Because cities are such complex human-created systems, the Institutes of Energy and the Environment created a new research theme, Urban Systems, which will address the essential and urgent needs for sustainable, healthy and affordable solutions for urban areas.

Mentions: Tom Richard, Bruce Logan, Erica Smithwick, Shirley Clark, Hannah Wiseman

Architectural engineer on mission to enable zero-carbon buildings

An assistant professor in architectural engineering, Pavlak and his team have focused in recent months on how design and control optimization can lead to benefits both for buildings and the environment in one cohesive process, known as co-design.

Mentions: Gregory Pavlak

Simpler models may be better for determining some climate risk

Typically, computer models of climate become more and more complex as researchers strive to capture more details of our Earth's system, but according to a team of Penn State researchers, to assess risks, less complex models, with their ability to better sample uncertainties, may be a better choice.

Mentions: Klaus Keller, Nancy Tuana

Low Carbon Building Program

Accelerating emission reductions through building renovations targeting energy efficiency, energy burdens, health, and expanded workforce for diverse communities.

Emissions from buildings reached the highest ever recorded levels in 2019. The current renovation rates of 1% annually could lock-in most existing buildings in a high carbon emissions future. Barriers include lack of awareness, affordability, and inadequate supply of skilled workforce. These barriers hit low-income households the hardest, particularly those with seniors and people with disabilities.

Learn more about the Low Carbon Building Program