Category Archives: Research

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EPA rejecting Green Infrastructure in CSO LTCP?

The article “Akron files federal motion to reopen agreement addressing overflowing sewers” caught my attention this morning. Requests to amend or change existing consent decrees filed with the EPA are not unheard of, especially in cities who adopted their Long Term Control Plans relatively early, after the 1994 CSO Control Policy was passed, which required all cities with combined sewer systems to put together plans to characterize and reduce and sewer overflows due to wet weather events. In this article however, the author states that Akron’s effort for an Integrated Plan incorporating more green infrastructure components has been twice rejected by the EPA.

City and Regional Planning, foundations, NGOs, and INFRASTRUCTURE

On Jan 8th, I attended a one-day workshop organized by the nonprofit NJ Future, the NJ DEP and the US EPA in Newark, NJ called “Reinvesting in Urban Water Infrastructure through Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plans.” Contrary to how technical and engineering-heavy as the name of the workshop might seem to imply, the experience highlighted a major trend in infrastructure planning, function, and operation and management: decentralization. Gone are the days of the heroic engineer-city planners, yielding the Promethean control of nature, and as a result, over other people. This workshop was a representative of the parties that need to be involved in the research, reinvestment, and implementation of water infrastructure upgrades all over the United States. 

Exciting Developments in NJ Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plans

New Jersey is at a very special crossroads with respect to its response to the EPA’s National Combined Sewer Overflow Strategy (1987) and the CSO Control Policy (1994). While larger cities such as New York City and Washington DC are well underway, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of issuing new permits for the 21 communities in NJ with combined sewer overflows. This is an exciting time for NJ, because despite being somewhat behind other cities in the implementation of the CSO Control Policy, it has the opportunity to utilize the lessons learned from other communities’ implementation, and to do so in a proactive, collaborative way.

PhD Workflow: Mobile Reference Management

As of a couple months ago, the Green Cities Lab of UPenn’s Dept of City and Regional Planning, finally has our own dedicated space, fully equipped with our own workstations! This not only means that I now have better access to computing power for running analyses, but I also now have the luxury of leaving my laptop at home and working exclusively on my workstation while I am on campus. (More on how I’ve set up file syncing and data back up systems at a later time) In this post, I’d like to talk about how I am now managing my references between computers using Zotero and FirefoxPortable.

Building Collective Efficacy and Resiliency in Cities

In the July 3rd episode of The Urbanist podcast, the host Andrew Tuck explores the hot-topic issue of resilience in urban areas. As he points out, especially with respect to increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather events, academics, designers, foundations, politicians and activists are all looking for the solutions that will allow cities to bounce back, adapt, or evolve after natural or man-made disaster strikes. This post explores the importance of non-physical, community building roles in resilience planning and relates this importance to the concept of “collective efficacy” often used in criminology research.

Infrastructural Ecology’s Value In Conceptual Design

As I mention in a previous post, there is much appeal to utilizing ecological models and frameworks to understand phenomenon that one might not immediately associate with the field of biological ecology. In this article I outline how the framework of infrastructural ecology can help the analysis and conceptual design for site sustainability and resilience.

The Internet of Things, with Chinese Characteristics

The recent Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion has been talked about quite a bit in the media, but many fewer people have been paying attention to the Internet giants of China, a nation which, by sheer size and momentum of development has the potential to have significant effects globally. WhatsApp, a social messaging app that is popular abroad has a Chinese equivalent: WeChat, which is owned by one of the two major Internet giants of China: Tencent. Tencent is the group that owns QQ, a instant messaging service that started in China in 1999 and has been likened to the Chinese equivalent of AIM that many of the 80s generation in the US grew up with. Fast forward to today, Alibaba (sometimes referred to as the Ebay or Amazon of China), is the other Chinese Internet giant. While we in the US are talking about the ever-expanding “Internet of Things” that are allowing us to use mobile and cloud-based services to control our physical world (your refrigeratorparking meters, or even that dwindling keg of beer), Internet company feuds in China are literally spilling over into the streets, and, quite possibly into the air.

Data Collection and the Utility of Theories and Models

I recently read an article that posed an interesting question: does the wealth of data that we are now able to collect about every aspect of life make the development of explanatory models and theories moot? All theories and models are reductionist representations of complex real life that are meant to help us understand how things work. But, says the author of this article, in the age of the Petabyte, explanations of why we do the things we do are becoming less important. More important are the development of tools and methodologies that extract the patterns, show the statistical correlations, and find the relationships between all the data that we are collecting.