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Grand Challenges: Visualizing Urban Flooding Due To Climate Change

A Problem Of Growing Urgency In Low Income Neighborhoods

Grant Type: Individual Project Grant
Topics: Climate Change and Social Justice
College Represented: AGNR

Grand Challenges Grants Program


Across the U.S., people are increasingly at risk of flooding due to climate change. This is especially true in low income urban communities that need the assistance of design professionals who can help analyze the flooding problems and identify solutions. Advancements in innovative 3D virtual reality (3D VR) technology can be used to visualize flooding—immersed in the scene at human scale—in ways that current methods simply cannot do on paper or computer screens. The 3D VR technology is now affordable and easily integrated with standard off-the-shelf design software to develop realistic 3D VR simulations of actual neighborhoods under threat of flooding. This project is working with state and local agencies in Maryland and Baltimore to conduct a comprehensive scientific study to determine if and how 3D VR is a more effective tool to advocate design solutions for the growing problem of severe urban flooding. This study includes three parts: 1) stakeholder engagement workshops to assess the strengths of communicating flood scenarios and design solutions using 3D VR with city officials and important stakeholders, 2) a laboratory experiment that tests the strengths of visualizing urban flooding with 3D VR technology resulting in usable scientific evidence, and 3) interviews with design professionals who currently use 3D VR to document when and how 3D VR is being used to support site analysis, conceptual design, onsite review, construction administration, and public presentations.

PI: Christopher Ellis (AGNR),
Professor, Plant Science and
Landscape Architecture

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