Future urban infrastructure

Research into new technologies for building systems integration.

This research program focuses on creating new infrastructure, services and delivery systems for buildings, network infrastructure and materials; and new distributed technologies for energy, water, waste and transport.

‌Led by Professor Richard Manasseh, the future urban infrastructure program draws on our collective expertise in:

  • fluid and thermodynamics of energy and water systems
  • urban water engineering
  • product design engineering
  • metals and plastics recycling
  • building and precinct information modelling
  • modular assembly of buildings
  • precinct-scale design and retrofitting
  • distributed energy and storage
  • rapid prototyping
  • design for deconstruction and reuse/recycling.

This program is organised around three intersecting streams, each drawing from the knowledge and insights of one another.

Integrated infrastructure systems

This stream represents the flow of energy and materials into and around cities. Cities, the precincts within them, and extra-urban communities, traditionally drew in electricity, water and food from beyond their boundaries, and expelled waste heat, water and solids. Now, however, power is generated and stored in buildings, water is collected and reused, and food is grown locally. How do we encourage this, while regulating to prevent disasters in health, safety and energy?

If people are convinced to install battery storage, why are they not convinced to drink recycled water? How can we use big data to coordinate a myriad of individual producers and consumers? How can we use digital fabrication and procurement to respond flexibly to citizens’ needs?

Urban information modelling

This stream embraces the world of big data, the emergence of sophisticated new algorithms to work with vast data sets using increasingly more powerful computers.

Whether at the scale of building, precinct or the whole city, real-time information modelling and diverse scenario testing can lead to real-time decision-making.

Big data on the flows of power, food, water and materials - as well as on mobility - can be tapped. This information can then be distilled to reveal relationships and implications, empowering stakeholders and end-users to take courses of action that might not have otherwise occurred to them. How can we put big data in citizens’ hands, so that they can be active yet responsible designers of their own cities?

Through information modelling and management, all aspects of designing, building, managing and disposing of the built environment’s physical components (through digital fabrication and procurement) can be linked as intelligent sets of data. This can radically increase efficiency and reduce waste of time, effort and resources across the construction sector.

Digital fabrication and procurement

This stream engages with the rapidly changing processes behind the procurement and making of cities, precincts and buildings.

Automation is changing the way we think about buildings requiring new and innovative procurement strategies and building processes. How can we utilise robotic and adaptive technologies, long established on the factory floor, to both fabricate and disassemble urban environments to suit changing needs?

There are significant crossovers between each of streams as pairs.

Together, integrated infrastructure systems and urban information modelling research communities can engage in the quest for novel environmental systems modelling. Urban information modelling and digital fabrication and procurement come together over building systems integration. And, the alliance between digital fabrication procurement and integrated infrastructure systems researchers offers new technologies for building systems integration.

Contact the Smart Cities Research Institute

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