As climate change threatens human habitation with rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events, cities struggle to make decisions related to the built environment both to adapt to changing conditions and to mitigate future impacts through energy conservation. Much data related to this issue exists, but its vast quantities and multiple formats make it challenging for decision-makers to integrate and use effectively as they seek to create more livable, resilient cities. In addition, while quantitative data is abundant, qualitative information about interactions between humans and the built environment is lacking, so systems are frequently designed without attention to the perspectives of those who live in them.
Tackling the environmental, spatial, and human complexities of sustainable cities requires a transdisciplinary, systems-based approach that emphasizes strong stakeholder involvement. Our pilot project will develop data-intensive, replicable decision-making support systems that engage ISU researchers, community stakeholders, and city officials in data collection and decision-making to create sustainable futures. Local stakeholders will help develop complex and disparate sets of data at multiple scales including spatial data, human/built environment interaction data, and data on needs and perceptions of surroundings. Finally, these models will provide stakeholders with feedback suggesting how different choices can create different outcomes, allowing them to make more informed decisions. By integrating principles of data-driven science with community engagement practices, we advance on environmental and social challenges in ways that make communities full partners in the scientific and development processes. The communities involved are thus not only better informed about sustainability but are empowered as actors in creating new futures.