The BURST initiative envisions two focused research projects:

Project testbed

The conceptualization of infrastructure scenarios, depicted in Figure 1, is the principal way in which major types of infrastructure networks are generated for subsequent analysis. The development of these scenarios begins with identification of driving forces that are either inevitable or probable, and their impact on the planning problem. Also, various types of plans including land use, transportation, and economic development are examined to derive several sets of possible future. As Peter Schwarzi notes, scenarios are a way of re-perceiving the future, compelling us to question our assumptions about the way the world works. This approach is particularly suited to BURST because of its emphasis on integrating several aspects of problem simultaneously.

Figure 2. Urban eco-boulevards (dark green) alongside living and working spaces, the park system, and transportation grid (dotted lines are light commuter rail). Copyright UrbanLab.

We will use the Chicago metropolitan region as our study area, and in particular the "eco-boulevards" concept, shown in Figure 2, as a testbed for the two projects described aboveii. The driving forces for this scenario arise from several design principles, physical constraints, and other considerations: the need to conserve water and the recognition of legal constraints placed on its availability Lake Michigan; the desirability of distributed recreational, office, and living spaces; the value of preserving biologically diverse landscapes; the security of distributed wastewater treatment facilities; the reality of the drainage characteristics of the region (west to east), the inherent resiliency of dual networks (water and road systems) for moving goods and people, and the use of renewable energy whenever possible.

In this scenario, water is drawn from the surface water resource, treated for potability, distributed and used, and returned to the source via a series of interconnected wetlands along which energy efficient living and office spaces, greenhouses, and distributed wastewater treatment stations are located. The resultant infrastructure makes use of the natural drainage pattern of the region (left to right), native plant species, advanced wastewater treatment technologies, and the existing water distribution system and transportation grid to integrate water supply, wastewater treatment, green spaces, and living areas, while facilitating commerce, increasing biodiversity, conserving aquatic resources, and increasing recreational opportunities. This scenario also provides the basis for an adaptive, partially redundant set of transportation-water resource networks in which eco-boulevards can serve as an alternative transportation grid should the need arise though short term disruption, or be justified through longer term economic and societal demands.

The outputs of the discrete research projects will demonstrate the viability of the geospatial and temporal data integration, and the computation of sustainability and resiliency metrics for this scenario.

i Schwarz, P. (1991). The Art of the Long View, Doubleday, New York.
ii Dunn, S., and M. Felsen (2007). "Growing Water" Urban Lab, Chicago.