We are witnessing a mass urbanization of the planet: the fraction of the world population living in urban areas could reach 70% by 2050. Half of the infrastructure that cities will need has not been built. This unprecedented endeavor must ensure that the future metropolis is more resilient, sustainable, livable and equitable.
Water resources lie at the center of this century’s most urgent environmental challenges. At the same time, energy production and supply will continue to drive anthropogenic climate change, exacerbating the risks of water shortages, floods, vector-borne diseases and disrupted food production.
Resilience of the urban infrastructure—buildings, bridges and lifelines—cannot be achieved without consideration of the impacts from resource consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, materials fabrication and the building and maintenance of structures.
A water molecule can travel long distances in its hydrologic cycle, from the top of the stratosphere to the depths of the oceans. Understanding how hydrologic and atmospheric processes interact to shape our environment remains a core challenge for environmental engineers.
Chemical and biological processes govern the transformation of molecular matter in the environment, controlling the cycling of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, as well as hazardous metals and pollutants. All of these processes in the context of a changing climate increase the vulnerability of biodiversity, food security, human health and water quality.
In both engineering and the arts, one creates something new. Engineers push the boundaries using theory, computation and experimentation. Artists push the boundaries using provocation, challenge, reframing and revelation. Together they find new ways to improve our world and the human condition.