Designing a sustainable future
Major multi-level spatial problems (so called wicked problems) require multidisciplinary solutions and broad thinking. The Master’s programme Spatial Engineering prepares you to address them with a combination of technical and socio-economic knowledge, with a strong basis of spatial data analysis and modelling. Check out the study programme or find out more about why you should choose Spatial Engineering at the University of Twente.
Equipping students to tackle complex, multi-level spatial problems
Devising solutions for multi-level, spatial problems takes a lot more than technical expertise. Think, for example, of the distribution of limited natural resources, of water, energy or food security, of catastrophic consequences of natural and man-made disasters, or of the unplanned development of mega cities.
Many fast growing cities around the world suffer from floods, caused by excessive rainfall, or extremes such as hurricanes/typhoons. Population pressure and immigration causes people to settle in locations less suitable for habitation (former wetlands, coastal zones, river floodplains). In developing countries, these areas are highly dynamic in terms of human activities, and develop in an unplanned fashion. Resilience levels are low: there is little understanding of the situation, and general poverty prevents personal or community action. City authorities however want to reduce the effects of disasters or prevent them all together.
Solutions can be found in integrated flood management: a mix of better spatial planning, engineering of a mix of protection measures and upstream water harvesting, and improved resilience in various levels. However, every mitigation measure requires space (which may be unavailable), maintenance (which may not be accounted for), and works only to a certain degree (what is the acceptable risk?). These aspects must be discussed with and approved by stakeholders to have any chance of success. Creativity lies in dealing with future population increase, with added long term effects of climate change, while still coming up with sustainable scenarios. The problem offers a wide range of interesting problems: what determines the differences in flooding of New York, Kampala, Manilla, and Amsterdam? When is a city flood proof and which risks are acceptable? What data and methodologies do you need to investigate this? What is the influence of different levels of planning, governance and resilience?
To meet a growing need for food and at the same time offer food and water security, integrated catchment management is needed in many parts of the world. Universities, Dutch consultancies, NGOs and governments have long since recognized this. Nevertheless, solutions are complex because of competing claims, shortage of resources, and the political and economic context. Earth observation data can give us a wealth of information on land cover change, climate variability, drought warning, but how can this help people on the ground? What else is needed in the short and long term?
The goals of sustainable basin management are high: improve water safety and security to support structural poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth for the inhabitants as well as conservation of the basin’s key forest and savannah ecosystems. Stakeholders are farmers, river basin authorities, NGOs, wildlife conservation agencies. Can sustainability be achieved together with water conservation? Or with mass insurance at a national level? Or with sustainable animal husbandry levels? Ultimately, these interconnected public, private, and environmental elements of the basin serve as a model of sustainability for surrounding basins, with transferable tools and approaches.
Man induced earthquakes
Extraction of groundwater, salt, natural gas and other resources, or fracking of shale, often may result in subsidence of the earth surface or earth quakes. It is an increasing problem both in the Netherlands (Groningen) and in many areas around the world: 29 earthquakes per year in the central US (USGS, 2016), massive subsidence in several mega-cities in the world (Jakarta, Bangkok, Beijing).
Solutions are not readily available, but studying these phenomena and quantifying their effects on our living environment needs complex 3D analysis of large datasets. For instance, earthquake wave propagation can be modelled using seismic data and knowledge of the 3D composition of the material through which the waves travel. In the Netherlands we have such knowledge, compiled in databases such as DINO.
Planned to start in 2017
Before the University of Twente can offer a new master’s programme, it must be accredited and officially registered in the Netherlands. Spatial Engineering is a new master’s programme and we still are in the process of having it accredited and registered. We expect to have to programme officially registered in May 2017 and start the programme in September 2017! In the meantime application is open.