By: Victoria Goncharova

The University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning hosted the 13th Annual DCP Research Symposium virtually on Nov. 9-10, 2021, highlighting cutting-edge research from the top five public university through student posters and faculty panels.

According to DCP Associate Dean Dr. Margaret Portillo, the event was highly engaging and interactive.

“The annual symposium gave us the opportunity to share research happening at the student, faculty, center and institute level within our DCP community of scholars,” Portillo said. “Some sessions introduced the audience to the work of our newest cohort of assistant professors, while other lines of inquiry featured more senior faculty in the college with longstanding and vibrant collaborations with stakeholders in Florida and around the world.”

According to Dr. Portillo, the symposium also welcomed opportunities for future visioning. A panel of leading experts shared evidence-based scholarship on ways equity and resilience can be developed in the environment, an issue that is as critical to our allied disciplines as it is to the earth.

The event kicked off with the announcement of virtual poster winners, celebrating student research from Ph.D. candidates, master’s students and undergraduate scholars.

After winners were announced, this year’s symposium featured a juror session, where the judges of the competition were able to explain their judging criteria and offer advice to future participants. The four members of the jury were Professors Charlie HaileyBryan FranzTimothy Murtha and Shabboo Valipoor.

“The pool that we had was interesting,” Franz said. “Some students were further in their work with a more complete story. The key deciding point when I looked at a poster was how well it told a story. It was a fundamentally different medium.”

Valipoor agreed and expressed that a story on a poster must be told clearly where everything is necessary and there is a good use of visuals.

The posters were presented from all the college’s disciplines .

“It was really nice as a juror to see the breadth of the students,” Murtha said. “You could really start to appreciate what a special thing we at DCP participate in because of the diversity of disciplines in the college.”

One recommendation the professors had for students was to have a good exit strategy on their posters. A well-understood exit helps tell the story of the poster effectively.

After the juror session, day one ended with a panel entitled, “Future Visioning: Exploring Equity and Resilience.” The two-hour highly interactive panel featured Dr. Azza Kamal as moderator and included experts Sameh Wahba (World Bank), Michael Hess (City of Orlando), Stewart Sarkozy (Resilient Cities Network), Amy Knowles (City of Miami Beach) and Jeff Carney (Florida Institute for Built Environment Resilience).  

“The ‘Future Visioning: Exploring Equity & Resilience’ panel was an opportunity for our DCP community to interactively engage in the most pressing discourse about the future of our planet and discuss COP26 updates and expectations,” Dr. Kamal said.

The panel discussed how cities and small towns in Florida and around the world are planning for resilience and dealing with the challenges of financing and implementing equity to ensure that everyone will thrive, not only those who are privileged.

Wahba spoke on housing and objectives related to end ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. The Harvard University Ph.D. graduate also presented research about climate and disaster resilience housing. His World Bank colleagues analyzed neighborhoods with machine learning to discover what buildings were in danger of being at-risk, learning that every dollar spent in prevention is $4-10 saved in reconstruction. Wahba concluded his presentation by stressing that the problem is never only about housing, but about people.

“Do not wait to build back better,” Wahba told the audience. “Build better than before.”

Representing the foremost global city-led urban resilience network, Sarkozy spoke about equitability.

“If you are not doing it from an equitable lens, you are not really doing it,” he said, speaking on his work at the Resilient Cities Network. Sarkozy has a long history of work with indigenous communities, particularly in the areas of community finance and economic sovereignty.

After Sarkozy, Knowles presented on how as the Miami Beach Chief Resilience Officer, she is addressing broader social resilience of quality of life. Miami Beach is working on combatting climate change effects by planning for sea level rise. It is doing this by raising sidewalks, offering grants for housing renovations in low-income areas and creating sophisticated water-waste systems.

Hess, the director of Future Ready at the City of Orlando, presented his work to improve the quality of internet connection in Orlando households.

“Focusing on the people is a really big part of my work,” he said.

At the conclusion of the panel, associate professor Jeff Carney expanded on his work at FIBER, where the immediate goal is to advance research in different fields.

Day two of the event began with new faculty members focusing on the expansion of the DCP academic community. Most of the six-on-five lightning rounds centered around the college’s focus on artificial intelligence.

“Simulation-based quantification technologies, emerging data integration and AI systems are playing important roles,” DCP Assistant Professor Chaofeng Wang said. “The risk and performance of urban infrastructures needs to be understood for informed decision-making under the uncertain and changing environment.”

Following an update from the different centers involved with DCP, the symposium closed with a panel entitled “Cross-College Research Sharing: Place-based Inquiry & Discussion.” The event closer featured DCP faculty members Ilir BejleriNancy ClarkKevin Thompson and Jason von Meding 

Bejleri presented his research looking at limited mobility options in the Gainesville area. The object of his research was to assess availability of transport options and develop a geospatial model to apply to Alachua County. The research team looked at transportation supply versus transportation demand and saw a deficiency. Now, they are working to apply and assess results of this model to a region of four counties in Florida.

Thompson spoke about his placemaking efforts at Growhub, which provides opportunities for students and citizens to collaborate. It brings diverse groups of people together and allows students to learn how non-profits operate and raise capital funding.

During the panel, Dr. Portillo asked, “Where do you see most growth happening for place making?”

Thompson explained that it is being able to take joyful experience of placemaking for students and looking for opportunities in the future. It helps students find a place in the community, he said.

The 14th Annual DCP Research Symposium will be held Nov. 9-10, 2022, when DCP once again presents fascinating research from students, faculty and relevant industry thought leaders.

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