Professor, Chair of the Department of Planning and Design
Office: CAP 504
Focus: Urban environmental planning, green infrastructure, ecosystem services, growth management, wildfire management in urban interface, urban watershed planning, urban energy metabolism, GIS, spatial analysis and modeling
Bio: I am a Professor of urban planning and the Chair of the Department of Planning and Design at the University of Colorado, Denver. I address issues at the intersection of urban planning and environmental sustainability using spatial analytic tools. I authored The Very Hungry City (Yale University Press, 2012), which looks at the determinants of urban energy consumption, what makes some cities more efficient than others, and what rising global energy prices will mean for cities. Prior to CU Denver, I was on the faculty of the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resource for 12 years, where I am still an Adjunct Professor. While at UVM, I was Director of the Transportation Research Center and of the Spatial Analysis Lab.
For the last 11 years I have been a co-principal investigator of the National Science Foundation’s Baltimore Ecosystem Study where I focus on studying the spatial distribution and benefits of urban “green infrastructure,” characterizing urbanization patterns, and developing new GIS and remote sensing methodologies for mapping and characterizing heterogeneous urban environments. In addition to his academic position, I am also Principal and Co-founder of Spatial Informatics Group, LLC, an environmental consulting firm that focuses on applying advanced spatial technology to complex planning and environment problems, including provision of ecosystem services and wildfire management in the urban interface. I am also an Associate Editor for two journals, Ecosystem Health and Sustainability and Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment. I was educated at Yale College (B.A.), Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (M.F.), and University of California Berkeley (Ph.D.) and also served for as a planning commissioner for Burlington VT for four years.
When it comes to urban and regional planning, what are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about greening our cities and suburbs. In particular, I’m interested in finding win-win approaches that simultaneously generate economic, social and environmental benefits in an aesthetic and design-oriented way. To do this requires both restoring elements of pre-existing ecosystems, like river corridors, but also using design to creatively replicate certain ecosystem functions through mechanisms like constructed wetlands, rain gardens, bioswales, green corridors, and strategically placed urban tree canopy.
What is the most important issue you believe the planning profession should be focusing on for the future, and why?
I believe that the planning profession needs to address issues of long-term urban sustainability, including adaptation to climate change, to water scarcity and to increasing energy prices. These are not just issues of environmental sustainability, but of social equity, for lower income groups are the most vulnerable to these stressors.
As a planner and as an instructor, how do you view your role in the community?
I see myself and my department colleagues as a nexus of neutral third party experts who can connect stakeholders in the community, serve as a hub of regionally-relevant research, and foster dialogue to address some of the most difficult planning issues. I also see us as a resource in our capacity to facilitate and coordinate student projects that involve working on real-world planning problems with actual clients. In so doing we provide a valuable learning experience while helping engage students in the community and solving real world problems.
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