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Better together: Website highlights Urban Alliance

By Nicole Ouellet

The City of Calgary and the University of Calgary have launched a website to showcase research on key local issues such as ensuring a clean water supply, managing traffic jams and integrating immigrants into society.

“There is huge potential synergy for the city and the university to work together,” says Chris Wade, director of infrastructure services for the City of Calgary. “We need to start to re-think how we develop as cities. We have huge, pressing challenges and there is an opportunity here to find solutions to real problems.”

The Urban Alliance is a partnership between the city and the U of C that will integrate university research in nine areas to benefit the citizens of Calgary—social fabric and security, living spaces, natural environment, the consumption and disposal cycle, mobility, physical infrastructure, management and industry, workplace and governance.

The website, which goes live on July 20 at www.urban-alliance.ca, offers a glimpse into the projects that fall under the Urban Alliance umbrella. The partnership was formed in 2006 to better coordinate a seamless transfer of research between the U of C and the City of Calgary.

Through the Urban Alliance, both organizations pursue common interests in research, development and education, with the goal of finding solutions to the complex problems facing Calgary.

“We recognize that the city is going through a very challenging spurt of growth,” says Martin Kirk, associate vice-president (research and international) at the U of C. “Every day, our researchers are working on finding solutions to many of the issues faced by our community—all the way from research into traffic flow and road design to investigations into livable cities and homelessness.”

As the Alliance relationship matures, it is expected to provide both the university and the city with world-class recognition for urban-based research, education and municipal innovation.

For example, researchers at the U of C are at the forefront of developing innovative construction designs and materials that significantly improve durability and strength while lowering costs. These researchers are working in tandem with City of Calgary planners to ensure that massive new infrastructure projects are being built with the most effective and efficient options.

“There is an opportunity to do this now while the city is developing the infrastructure,” says Dr. Tom Brown, head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering. “It’s very hard to go back and say we should do this after the fact.”

When Lafarge Canada Inc. was hired to build the pedestrian footbridge over Glenmore Trail between Crowchild Trail and 14th Street S.W., it wanted to use an innovative type of concrete called Ductal, which is 10 times stronger than conventional concrete and much more durable.

Civil engineering researchers at the U of C tested the material to determine whether it would do the job. Sensors were also installed directly into the bridgework during construction, to allow engineers to carefully monitor it over time and watch for any changes.

The result? Cracks that would normally develop were eliminated so that water can’t get into the structure and corrode the rebar. Safety and cost efficiencies were improved. Environmental considerations were also taken into account—an important step as more emphasis shifts to sustainable development across the city.

By aligning more research projects at the U of C with priority areas identified by the city, researchers will be able to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. The Urban Alliance marks a transformational change in the way the city develops, by providing a framework for leading-edge researchers and front-line city planners to work together.