Led by Professor Richard Manasseh, this research program focuses on creating new infrastructure, services and delivery systems for buildings, network infrastructure and materials, as well as creating new distributed technologies for energy, water, waste and transport. 

Our research draws upon 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.

The research program is organised around three intersecting streams, each drawing from the knowledge and insights of the others:

  • Integrated Infrastructure Systems (energy harvesting; microgrid stability; water and food harvesting; materials harvesting)
  • Digital Fabrication and Procurement (robots in construction; innovative building procurement; innovative building processes; innovative construction materials; smart skins for smart(er) cities)
  • Urban Information Modelling (building information modelling; precinct information modelling; city information modelling; decision-making on ambient data).

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, power is generated and stored in buildings, water is collected and reused, and food is grown locally. 

The questions we’re investigating in this stream include:

  • How do we continue to encourage this while also 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?

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 a building, a 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 wasting time, effort and resources across the construction sector.

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 the streams:

  • Integrated infrastructure systems and urban information modelling research communities can engage in the quest for novel environmental systems modelling. 
  • Urban information modelling and the digital fabrication and procurement stream can come together over building systems integration. 
  • Digital fabrication procurement and integrated infrastructure systems researchers can offer new technologies for building systems integration.

Future urban infrastructure program news

Contact the Smart Cities Research Institute

If your organisation would like to collaborate with us to solve a complex problem, or you simply want to contact our team, get in touch by calling +61 3 9214 5177 or emailing scri@swinburne.edu.au.

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