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

Associate Professor in Architecture, Architecture
Assistant Professor, Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education

Featured News

Interdisciplinary projects awarded seed grants from IEE

The Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) has awarded seed grants to 22 groups of interdisciplinary researchers for the 2020-21 award cycle. This year, seed grants were awarded to proposals focusing on at least one of IEE’s five strategic research themes — Climate and Ecosystem Change, Health and the Environment, Integrated Energy Systems, Urban Systems, and Water and Biogeochemical Cycles.

Mentions: Bruce Logan, Seth Blumsack, Mary Ann Bruns, Peter Stempel, Klaus Keller, Alexander Klippel, Kristina Douglass, Gregory Jenkins, Shirley Clark, Lauren McPhillips, Hong Wu, Margaret Byron, John (Jay) Regan, Mallika Bose, Stephen Mainzer, Ute Poerschke, Lisa Iulo, Natasha Miles, Jennifer Baka, Kenneth Davis, Esther Obonyo, Wei Peng, Emily Pakhtigian, Hannah Wiseman, Randy L. Vander Wal, Andrew Kleit, Dave Yoxtheimer, Mohamed Badissy, Thomas Murphy, Linxiao Zhu, Alfonso Mejia, Daniel Brent, Charles Cole, Tom Richard

Growing Impact: Green stormwater infrastructure

Green storm water infrastructure uses the power of plants and soils to improve water quality. More than that, Lauren McPhillips discusses how making stormwater infrastructure green is saving cities money, impacting environmental justice, and cooling urban heat islands with aesthetically pleasing gardens.

Mentions: Lauren McPhillips

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

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