|Protecting the Environment
The University's wide-ranging expertise on the environment and sustainability represents an asset of international value. It encompasses not only the Department of Environmental Sciences, which examines the environment from multiple disciplinary perspectives, but also specialists in architecture, planning, engineering, business, and law. The Environmental Protection Agency is capitalizing on the University's cross-disciplinary capabilities through the new Center of Expertise for Superfund Site Recycling. Led by Jonathan Cannon, professor of law, and financed with a $600,000, three-year grant from the EPA, the center will develop decision-making models for dealing with the 1,233 sites on the EPA's National Priorities List. Each presents interrelated scientific, legal, social, and land-use challenges.
Julie Bargmann, associate professor of landscape architecture, develops
imaginative ways to convert these sites into new public spaces. She is looking
beyond reclamation, which usually involves covering contaminants or hauling
them away, and is emphasizing "regeneration," which entails new bioremediation
techniques and the transformation of landfills and abandoned factories into
useful landscapes that embrace their industrial past. In October 2003, Newsweek's
special design issue listed Ms. Bargmann in its honor roll of designers
who make a difference.
|Julie Bargmann, associate professor of landscape architecture, imagines ways to convert industrial sites into new public spaces.
The University is fostering community efforts to protect local water supplies.
With funds from the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Virginia Environmental
Endowment, the Institute for Environmental Negotiation produced A Stream
Corridor Protection Strategy for Local Governments, a new book that
helps localities within the Chesapeake Bay's 64,000-square-mile drainage
basin implement many facets of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement. It describes
ways to devise an effective stream-protection strategy through zoning, community
involvement, and other means.
The University itself is engaged in an integrated program of storm water management that will help to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Meadow Creek, which was routed underground in the 1950s, is being brought back to the surface in the Dell, and portions of the creek and its tributaries will be "daylighted" adjacent to the new Emmet Street garage, John Paul Jones Arena, and the arts district on Carr's Hill. This work is part of a larger effort to limit erosion, flooding, and the speed of water running into the city's drain network. Linda K. Blum, an associate professor of environmental sciences, will conduct a multiyear study of how exposure to air and sunlight improves water quality in the creek system.
Transportation Systems That Work
In our mobile society, transportation affects every aspect of our lives. The Engineering School's Smart Travel Laboratory is helping the state to address its transportation needs by compiling data that will be vital to developing strategies to reduce congestion, vehicular mishaps, and pollution. Created five years ago, the lab archives information on traffic volumes, speeds, and accidents that are collected from thousands of sensors placed on roads by the Virginia Department of Transportation. This year, VDOT and the University's Center for Transportation Studies received a $1 million Federal Highway Administration grant to develop systems for analyzing this data.
University researchers are also working to improve railroad safety. In the wake of major accidents in the 1990s, the Federal Railroad Administration introduced a new set of performance-based standards for rail equipment and systems. With more than $8 million in research grants, Ted Giras, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his colleagues in the cross-disciplinary Center of Railroad Safety-Critical Excellence are developing ways to help the FRA and other agencies assess the risk of safety-critical products. Combining experts in electrical, computer, civil, and systems engineering, as well as cognitive psychology, the center is creating software tool sets and training programs to support the new standards. It also has developed a sophisticated simulation of an actual train line. "Our goal," said Professor Giras, "is to be the global leader in this field."