Model Developed to Predict Patterns of Urban Sprawl, Implications for Quality of Life

About 81 percent of the United States' population now lives in urban areas, as does almost half of the world's total population. Scientists and engineers say that as the trend continues there's increasing urgency for societies to learn how to develop more sustainable urban environments.

Among them is John Crittenden, a civil and environmental engineering professor in Arizona State University's (ASU) Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. Crittenden gave a presentation titled "Decision Support for Urban Development: Integrating Air Quality, Material and Energy Flows, and Social Justice," on Feb. 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Crittenden showcased a model he devised with ASU colleagues to predict patterns of urban sprawl and their implications for natural systems and quality of life for city-dwellers.

Using various social and environmental simulations (i.e., urban growth simulation, ground-level ozone simulation), the model is designed to forecast what the Phoenix metropolitan area might look like in 2015 based on projected development, and then determines many of the potential effects of that growth.

The model is intended to be used as a decision-making tool for local and state governments, civil engineers, business leaders and home owners who want to plan for growth that will avoid negative environmental consequences and protect the quality of life.

"This is really a first attempt to link social decision-making with construction methods and materials with the evaluation of local, regional and global impacts of those choices," Crittenden said. "We could reduce negative regional and global impacts of development by looking at alternative land-use patterns, construction methods and construction materials."

John Crittenden: http://www.eas.asu.edu/civil/Faculty/crittenden.htm

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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