Symposium Brings International Sustainability Experts to Birmingham

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More than 300 people attended the third annual Sustainable Smart Cities Symposium on Thursday, hearing from a wide range of speakers about the latest in urban sustainability and development.

This year's symposium, presented by the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, featured an international panel of speakers, including keynote speaker Barbara McCann, director of the Office of Safety, Energy & Environment for the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. In her address on "Complete Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks," McCann explained how a sustained commitment can lead to safer neighborhoods and improved opportunities for economic development. "It is a simple commitment in the beginning, but it can be much harder to actually implement those plans and sustain progress," McCann said. "But when you get that broad commitment on various levels, these communities will begin to transform, and they begin to measure success in different ways."

The symposium began with welcomes from UAB Provost Linda Lucas, Ph.D. and Birmingham Mayor William Bell. "I am proud of the fact that the city of Birmingham is taking an active role in this process to work with you to come up with best practices to improve our quality of life," said Bell. "It makes no difference how much research you do unless you can apply it to practical, everyday living. It is my responsibility to take the research you come up with and integrate it seamlessly into the planning arena within the city so you will have sustainable projects going on every day."

Other speakers included:

Urban Revitalization

  • John Adlen, director of the Office of Sustainability at Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom, "Sustainable Smart Cities: What's Happening in Europe"
  • Irene Rojo de las Heras, architect with Spain-based Luis Vidal + Architects, "Smart Urban Planning, Smart Buildings, Smart Objects"
  • Joseph Schilling, J.D., director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, "Reversing Shrinking Cities, Population Decline and Urban Vacancy"

Smart Technologies

  • Eduardo Behrentz, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, "Sustainable Urban Mobility"
  • Michelle Cullen, Smarter Cities specialist for IBM, "Social and Ethical Implications of Smart City Solutions"
  • Jennifer Dunnam, senior interaction designer with Frog Design in New York City, "Synchronized Cities: Leveraging Sensors to Optimize Urban Activity"
  • Horacio Werner, Ph.D., senior director of the Office of Strategy and Business Development, Emerging Countries and Internet of Everything for Cisco Systems, "The Internet of Everything: Connecting People, Process, Data, and Things"

Transportation and Economic Development (Panel Discussion)

  • Panel moderator: Eric Jack, Ph.D., dean of the UAB Collat School of Business
  • Charles Ball, executive director for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham
  • Henry Ikwut-Ukwa, Ph.D., manager of planning and development for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority
  • Barbara McCann, director of the Office of Safety, Energy and Environment, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Partnership of Alabama

To view al.com's recap of the speakers, as well as a photo gallery from the event, click here.