CH2M HILL joins Governing magazine as a founding underwriter for the publication’s new FutureStructure initiative to help public sector leaders think more like systems engineers. The initiative brings together a cadre of innovators and government executives to create alternative funding models and share best practices around infrastructure planning for cities of the future.

By: Joseph Danko, CH2M HILL’s Managing Director of Urban Programs

What will cities look like in the future? If you could design cities of the future, how would you go about planning and developing a livable, sustainable community?

These are questions government leaders, private sector innovators, environmental analysts, policy leaders, technology experts, engineers, finance executives and others are thinking and talking about as they work to develop economically robust, vibrant, livable communities to accommodate the rapid urbanization of the world’s population.

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in towns and cities. In 2010, approximately 80% of Americans lived in urban areas and this number is expected to increase to 90% by 2050. As more people move closer to city centers, there is a greater need for sustainable urban development. Cities require immense amounts of energy and water to operate, accounting for nearly two thirds of all energy used and 60 percent of all water consumed. Add to energy and water consumption, cities produce 70 percent of greenhouse gases emitted.

Building sustainable urban communities poses numerous challenges. This is where FutureStructure comes into play. Serving as a catalyst to help foster new leadership communities and to encourage state and local leaders to apply system engineering concepts as they develop and build sustainable cities, the FutureStructure initiative brings thought leaders together from public and private sectors to communicate and share best practices and innovative ideas to address today’s urbanization challenges.

Overcoming the constraints inherent in haphazard and siloed approaches to city planning, FutureStructure encourages people to see the connection between independent systems. From education systems to transportation infrastructure to economic vitality and environmental quality, we must shift our attention and view these challenges from a holistic “systems perspective”   as opposed to just thinking about what needs to be built next.

There is no question that our nation’s infrastructure is aging. As we start planning for our future, it’s important to leverage initiatives like FutureStructure to enhance the dialogue happening across public and private sectors. When we work together in community partnerships we are able to mold our technology ideas to create local solutions that result in energy efficient buildings, more efficient and sustainable water treatment facilities, intelligent transportation systems and other green infrastructure for the cities of tomorrow.

By partnering with Governing on the FutureStructure initiative, CH2M HILL brings extensive experience and resources working in the water, energy, facilities and transportation sectors with state and local government clients. We will be participating in FutureStructure’s inaugural leadership event in Chicago at the end of the month to meet with industry and government leaders to discuss the critical importance of U.S. infrastructure issues.

Interested in learning more? Watch a short video about the initiative. Join the conversation and stay connected with FutureStructure by following the conversation on Twitter using the #futurestructure.

Mr. Danko brings more than 25 years of experience to his role. He oversees urban development programs and strategic master planning for cities and communities around the world. He has participated in sustainable projects from master planning and financing through design, construction, and operations, including development of environmental management systems, sustainable communities and agriculture, renewable energy applications, climate change assessment, and waste-to-energy systems.