Smart communities are as much about the new technologies that help manage living environments more efficiently as about changing people’s and institutions’ frameworks and the processes that make communities work better.

Global Challenges we are addressing:

Improving built environments

How can we improve the relationship between people and their physical environment?

Some of our research in improving built environments includes:

Using timber in large scale structures

There is a growing demand from architects, developers and clients to create buildings from engineered timber products. Timber is both aesthetically appealing and environmentally advantageous, however, fire safety considerations are frequently cited as a major constraint on the use of timber within buildings.

UQ researchers are actively working to provide engineers with the knowledge and understanding required to building safely in timber – and at a large scale. We’re developing concepts for timber skyscrapers, characterising the fire dynamics associated with timber structures, assessing the fire performance of novel timber composite products and characterising the structural response of timber in fire conditions.

Using spinifex as a sustainable biomaterial for the built environment

Spinifex grass has long been a prime building material for shelters constructed in remote, arid-zone Aboriginal communities – available in abundance, it is strong and waterproof with good “sticking” qualities.

Using the combined expertise of social scientists, botanists, and engineering and architectural researchers, along with Aboriginal knowledge of ecology and sustainable harvesting, UQ has found spinifex to be eminently suitable for blending with other biomaterials (such as polymers) to create new bio-composites.

This research has led to the potential launch of a whole new sustainable industry: cellulose biomaterials for the built environment, a new commercial venture for remote Aboriginal communities in western Queensland for its harvesting, farming and bioprocessing.

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Restore and improve urban infrastructure

What can we do to restore and improve urban infrastructure?

Some of our research in restoring and improving urban infrastructure

Where should we live – analysing and improving transport systems

UQ research is facilitating sustainable transport planning and infrastructure development for a greener future. Currently, governmental authorities collect data about the travel behaviour of households using paper, phone or web-based surveys which is inaccurate, costly and outdated.

Using smart phones, our Civil Engineers have developed an accurate, easy and affordable means of data collection for transport planning. Atlas II automatically records individuals’ trips when running on their phones, without an unnecessary interaction with participants or an interference with the ordinary phone usages.

This data plays an important role in planning sustainable transport infrastructure by addressing the needs of future generations, and also relies more on greener means of transportation such as walking, riding and public transport.

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Quality supply of food and water

What can we do to restore and improve urban infrastructure?

Some of our research in quality supply of water and food for all communities includes:

Transitioning to water sensitive cities

Living in the world’s driest populated continent, the value of water to Australians has never been greater. As the population of Australia continues to increase, so does the growth of urban centres and inner-city dwellings, placing ever larger demands upon the existing water supply, waste-water and drainage systems.

The question of how to future-proof Australia and create liveable, productive, sustainable and resilient cities has become a national priority.

UQ, along with 84 other universities, government entities and private-sector organisations have developed the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) to address this challenge.

It is this broad and integrated approach to managing the urban water cycle that encompasses a diversity of stakeholders and disciplines, and that is what makes the CRCWSC unique in its vision to develop increasingly effective water sensitive cities of the future.

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Our partners


Related research centres and groups

Aboriginal Environments Research Centre

The AERC is a multidisciplinary centre for research and teaching into the culture, environment and architecture of Australian Indigenous peoples.

Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History

ATCH offers a rigorous and collegial environment for academics and HDR candidates engaged with the history of buildings and architectural concepts, and the past and present culture of architecture in relation to the visual arts, design, philosophy, cultural studies, and urbanisation.

Food Engineering

Research concerning food considers processing and materials design, with particular emphasis on developing fundamental insights and technologies to allow the creation of next generation healthier food and beverages.

Geotechnical Engineering

The Geotechnical Engineering Centre has an active research program and consulting activities specialising in a range of fields in geotechnical and geo-environmental engineering and computational modelling.

Photonics and Microwave Engineering

The Photonics and Microwave Engineering research group's activities revolve around technologies and techniques for sensing, imaging, and communicating using electromagnetic waves.

Security and Surveillance

Current research is aimed at developing advanced security solutions based on computer vision and pattern recognition technologies and advanced embedded systems.

Structural Engineering

Structural Engineering research focus is in the broad fields of stability and nonlinear structural response, thin-walled structures, concrete technology, infrastructure durability, sustainable structures and fire engineering.

Transportation Engineering

Transportation Engineering research focus is in traffic engineering, intelligent transport systems, public transport and freight network planning.

Wind Engineering

The Wind Research Laboratory is dedicated to furthering fundamental and applied knowledge relating to wind and its interaction with the built environment.