Research Units


Institute of Urban and Regional Development

The accelerated pace of urban growth around the world has spawned a host of complex problems related to housing, sprawl, transportation, environmental quality, poverty and the physical transformation of cities. Among the global challenges facing cities and regions today that are being tackled by IURD scholars are climate change, energy efficiency of cities, environmental justice, metropolitan ecosystems, green infrastructure, sustainable urban design, water-resource management, and urban distress in the Global South. For the most part, such problems cannot be solved through the lens of a single discipline but rather must rely on creative thinking and partnering among scholars and stakeholders across many fields and disciplines. In this capacity, IURD serves as a conduit for scholars and educators across many fields on the Berkeley campus to conduct collaborative research, train graduate and post-graduate students, and interact with and inform the practices of public agencies, the media, foundations, community leaders, and citizens. In so doing, cities and regions of the future can be more productive, resource-conserving, and socially just.

Important outlets for the creative ideas and work found at IURD are its Centers. At present, IURD’s five Centers – focused on Resilient Regions, Community Innovation, Cities and Schools, Sustainable Growth in California, and Global Metropolitan Studies – are where normative theories and critical thinking about cities and regions are forged, and get most directly expressed into practice.

IURD also provides a research home and support to individual faculty and graduate students from the university's professional teaching programs, including city planning, education, law, architecture, landscape architecture and environmental, social welfare, civil engineering, public health, and agriculture & resource economics. To enrich discussions on urban and regional affairs across the university’s many field and disciplines, the Institute also regularly sponsors symposia, colloquia, workshops, and speaker series.  IURD also hosts a Visiting Scholars program that invites academics and researchers from around the world to interact, nurture their research interests, and engage with the community of urban and regional scholars found throughout the Berkeley campus.

IURD's publication program is an important part of the Institute’s outreach efforts, insuring that research results are rapidly disseminated to a range of public policy stakeholders. The Institute also offers an electronic archive of past publications, and provides faculty, graduate students, visiting scholars, and professionals an outlet for research-related working papers, monographs, and reprints.

--IURD website

Building Sciences Group

The Building Sciences Group has been involved in evaluating the "thermal comfort" in buildings for over 30 years.  Thermal comfort involves a complex set of variables, including occupants' clothing and activity level, and indoor environmental characteristics such as temperature, humidity, and air movement. 

The Building Sciences Group has used "thermal manikins" for studies of workplace environmental quality.  The manikins simulate the effects of temperature on humans, allowing researchers to evaluate microclimatic effects in the indoor environment.

Thailand Studio

After the December 2004 tsunami, Chote Soponpanich, President of the Thai Public Policy Foundation, contacted Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor of the University of California-Berkeley, to explore a possible collaboration between the institutions in post-tsunami planning for sustainable tourism development.  A partnership was formed to leverage prior institutional connections with the Chulalongkorn University's Social Research Institute in Bangkok.

In 2005, the partnership developed its first project - Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development in Krabi Province.  With support from the Thai Public Policy Foundation, a workshop comprising 10 graduate students from the University of California-Berkeley and 10 graduate students from Chulalongkorn University - all with backgrounds in city planning, architecture, government, political science, and sociology - conducted field research throughout Krabi Province under the diretion of Professors David Dowall and Karen Chapple from the College of Environmental Design and IURD.

--courtesy IURD and Janet Dawson; from IURD website—Koh_Lanta_Yai_Krabi