Building Urban Resilience and Sustainability (BURST):
Integrating Adaptive Infrastructure Systems with Institutional and Ecological Functions

At present 80% of the US population lives in urban regions, a percentage that has grown steadily over the past two hundred years. Urban infrastructures are designed and built in response to social needs and economies of scale that urbanization has brought about. Our urban infrastructures are in many ways remarkable achievements of engineering design that were conceived and built during times of rapid urbanization; however, as they have aged and inevitably deteriorated, significant strains on their function and ability to provide services have become evident. In its program to identify the "grand challenges" facing society in the near future, the National Academy of Engineering has proposed several focus areas, among them the restoration and improvement of urban infrastructures. Such a challenge involves the need for renewal, but also presents opportunities for re-envisioning the basis of infrastructure design and function in cities of the future.

The BURST initiative brings together experts in diverse fields to develop a new interdisciplinary approach to the conception, design, planning, and analysis of urban infrastructures that enhances their resiliency and sustainability.

It is organized around the principle that sustainable and resilient infrastructures result from a combination of:

  • Planning
  • Analysis and design
  • Incorporation of technological advances
  • Interplay of human adaptation and response to the physical and ecological environment

In addition, social and economic incentive-structures must be factored in as important determinants of human responses to, and strategies for, the promotion of resilient and sustainable infrastructures.

The capacity of urban infrastructures to promote resiliency and sustainability is rooted in many factors:

  • Network organization
  • Built-in design redundancy or decentralization
  • Use of advanced materials
  • Ease-of-renewal or reconstruction
  • Extent to which the infrastructure is integrated with ecological systems
  • Self-diagnostic and healing capabilities
  • Ability to acquire accurate information that is communicated back into the functioning of the systemi

Further, the sustainability of these systems includes not only measures of capital economy and longevity, but also, and equally importantly, measures of material and energy demands of the system over the complete life cycle - from the refining, fabrication, and acquisition of materials, to the construction, use patterns, and end-of-life disposition of the infrastructural components.

Funding for the BURST initiative has been provided by:

UIC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research UIC Institute for Environmental Science and Policy
UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs UIC Department of Biological Sciences
UIC College of Engineering UIC Department of Computer Science
Department of Civil and Materials Engineering  

iAllenby, B., and J. Fink (2005). "Toward Inherently Secure and Resilient Societies", Science 309:1034-1036.; Turner, B.L. et al. (2003). "Illustrating the Coupled Human-Environment System for Vulnerability Analysis: Three Case Studies", Proc Nat Academy of Sciences, 100:8080-8085.