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City Skyline The initiative involves the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, the College of Population Health and the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce.

Jefferson Launches Institute for Smart and Healthy Cities

Aiming to become a world-renowned leader in developing smart and healthy cities in the face of climate change, social inequity, rapid urbanization and health disparity, three Thomas Jefferson University colleges formally teamed up to launch the Institute for Smart and Healthy Cities.

The effort will support transdisciplinary research, education and innovation to advance the development of the urban environment through collaboration across the architecture, design, engineering, health and science disciplines.

Dr. Edgar Stach—Institute director and professor of architecture at the College of Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)—says that his research often centers on how to enhance quality of life by addressing architecture, health, energy transportation and utilities.

As such, the time is right to continue “preparing students for the work of tomorrow and to plan future actions and solutions for health-centric urban planning.

“Rapidly urbanizing cities are centers for innovation and prosperity, but cities also significantly impact the environment and their inhabitants,” Dr. Stach says. “The urban environment is a complex interwoven system of different factors, all affecting human health and well-being. My vision is to transform urban environments into smart and healthy cities through learning, innovation, teaching, research, industry partnership and community engagement.”

Dr. Russell McIntire, an Institute associate director and associate professor of public health within the College of Population Health (JCPH), concurs.

“These big problems require not just Band-Aids, but innovation and system changes that work across sectors that typically don’t collaborate,” Dr. McIntire says. “The Institute will assemble interdisciplinary teams who can work together to address problems which require cooperation between people from different sectors.”

After this launch phase, Institute leaders will work to achieve several goals related to their vision for the collaboration. They are:

  • To serve as a convener and accelerator for organizations, consortia, institutions and individuals committed to achieving their vision.
  • To conduct applied research projects that will contribute to a healthier future for all Americans and global citizens.
  • To engage students, faculty and researchers with a global community of partner institutions, organizations and governments committed to transforming urban environments.
  • To develop, deploy and commercialize innovative technologies, products and services advancing urban environments into smart and healthy cities.
  • The Institute is committed to long-term sustainability of its leadership, resources and services.

In a tangible sense, studios within CABE will soon collaborate with peers within the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce’s industrial design program, which is directed by Institute associate director Tod Corlett.

“A little design and forethought can go a long way in making cities easier for people to use, more rewarding and more responsive to human needs,” Corlett says. “My hope is that our collaborative approach will show ways to make design for cities both less adversarial and more likely to work for all the diverse stakeholders in urban spaces.”

Creating collaborative programs within each of the colleges—touching on crossover expertise—is a future goal, Dr. McIntire says. What’s been created is an “umbrella” under which work can begin toward establishing collaborative programs and research plans, pursuing grants and engaging students in the new projects.

By 2025, that vision will see Jefferson “recognized by leaders and innovators from government, academic, industry and practice environments as the primary resource for the development of smart and healthy cities addressing pressing issues, such as health disparities, climate change, environmental justice and transportation,” according to the leaders.