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CEAS Professor Proposes Policy Projection Model in Effort to Go Green

By: Ashley Duvelius

Heng Wei, PhD and CEAS School of Advanced Structures Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, presented his research at the recent Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference. Wei proposes an actual and scenario based system to project the impact that commercial development will have on the environment.


Over the past decade, a global effort has been initiated to conserve and protect natural resources for future generations, and to protect human health through environmental stewardship. However, the “Go Green” campaign is challenged on a daily basis by the population’s increasing needs of land use and transportation. The University of Cincinnati joins the cause and looks to become an innovator in the realm of eco-friendliness.

The Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference is a two-day conference attended by over 2,800 people from across the United States. OTEC is co-sponsored by the Ohio Department of Transportation and The Ohio State University, and the conference is organized to provide something for everyone interested in Ohio’s transportation industry. The program addresses the latest policies and technical information, as well as covering new ideas in transportation policies, planning, design, construction, maintenance, operation, local government, and management of transportation resources.

Heng Wei, PhD and CEAS School of Advanced Structures Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, presented his research at the recent OTEC on a model which projects traffic-related emission and energy consumption demand based on various land-use and traffic management scenarios. The presentation title is “Approach for Integrating Regional Level and Corridor Level Conformity Analysis.” Wei presented Wednesday, Oct. 31 at “Session: Transportation Research at Universities in Ohio.”

In 2007, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) started a new science and engineering research program called “Sustainable Water Infrastructure for the 21st Century”, also known as the Aging Water Infrastructure (AWI) program. The purpose of the AWI Research Program  is to generate the science and engineering to improve and evaluate promising innovative technologies and techniques to reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of operation, maintenance, and replacement of aging and failing drinking water and wastewater treatment and conveyance systems.

Wei’s proposed integrated system, called the Scenario-Based Planning Support System (SB-PSS), examines the impact of management and adaptation strategies on alleviating climate change effects. The SB-PSS is developed through the integration of actual and scenario based land use visioning and planning, demographical changes, transportation emission analysis, and computer forecasting and evaluation of future scenarios. This system allows developers to understand how their plans—whether it is malls, apartments, or roadways—are going to effect the environment prior to construction.

traffic analysis

The figure above illustrates one area in which Wei analyzed the tri-state’s most extreme traffic zones. Cars cause even more damage to the environment while they’re idling in traffic due to their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, water and heat from their exhaust. These have a vastly negative effect on our ozone layer. For instance, there is currently great concern for the impact traffic back-ups on the I-75 Brent Spence Bridge is having on the environment. By using Wei’s proposed model, the future construction of a new bridge will promise safer conditions for both the surrounding greenery and our ozone layer.

Traffic isn’t the only factor one has to worry about when it comes to affecting the environment. Any time a building is built, trees and other greenery are bulldozed to make way for the new project. By eliminating plant life in an area, the photosynthesis process that was being performed by them—which converts carbon dioxide in the air to oxygen, essentially cleaning it—is also removed from the ecosystem. In addition to this negative impact, other things such as traffic flow naturally increase with the increase of land use. For instance, developers of the Banks, a long-time envisioned 18-acre marquee, mixed use development that includes residential units, office space, dining, leisure and entertainment venues, would use the SB-PSS to project what effect it will have on the surrounding area of Cincinnati.

highway ramp graphs

Similarly, there’s been much discussion of constructing a light rail through the Greater Cincinnati area. The proposed passenger rail transit system would greatly decrease, or perhaps even eliminate, the heavy traffic conditions that occur daily on I-75, 471, I-275, and I-71. The above graphs depict Wei’s results of studying such traffic conditions and how much CO2 is emitted because of them. Builders of the light rail would simply enter their plans into the SB-PSS system prior to assembly and it would project the positive outcome it will have on the area. Many oppose the idea of the light rail and SB-PSS would argue in favor of its construction.   

Wei concludes his presentation by stating that through the quantifying sustainability analysis, the proposed SB-PSS is proven to be an effective tool in decision making for the improvement of quality of life for residents, water resource and infrastructure adaptation.

Thanks to Wei’s novel research efforts, UC continues to be a leader in the go green campaign!

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