Liquid, crystal, or glass? A new approach to city resilience

Thursday, May 03, 2018 at 11:00am

Webex (Online)

Some cities are laid out on a precise grid where the arrangement of buildings resembles the ordering of atoms in a crystal, while others are arranged more chaotically like the disordered atoms in a liquid or glass—this “texture” reveals a lot about how a city will respond to high winds in a big storm, or to a major environmental event like a hurricane or earthquake. More recently, texture was shown to be the most important determinant of an area’s urban heat island effect.

In this webinar, MIT Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Faculty Director of the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub Franz-Josef Ulm will discuss his "Urban Physics” approach, which uses data from familiar programs like Google Maps to capture the internal structure of city environments then simplifies complicated city conditions to identify patterns like those seen in more complex materials and link those patterns to descriptions of city texture. Once a city's texture is known, the information can be used to improve city energy management strategies and to increase building, city, and community resilience.

The MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) webinar series offers information of general interest to members of the building, paving, and construction communities, as well as to educators, students, journalists, and law and policy-makers interested in the environmental and economic impacts of decision-making concerning infrastructure. Videos of past webinars are archived to the CSHub YouTube Channel.

Webinars are free and open to the public. Presentations are geared toward a lay audience.

Event Type


Events By Interest


Events By Audience

Public, MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff

Events By School

School of Engineering (SoE)


Infrastructure, Concrete, materials science, Climate Science, urban resilience, urban phyics




Concrete Sustainability Hub


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