Research and Outreach

The faculty and students of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning are actively engaged in applied professional projects and scholarly research in Florida, nationally, and internationally. The members of the faculty conduct research and carry out service that contributes to a better understanding and shaping of resilient communities and ecosystems to promote human capabilities, social justice, sustainable livelihoods, and community health and safety.

Our department’s Florida Planning and Development Lab is widely recognized for our applied student and faculty projects.

Florida Planning and Development Lab, directed by our Planner-in-Residence, serves as an important outreach vehicle through which our faculty and students engage in planning practice and local communities through student studio projects and applied faculty research. We encourage you to visit the Florida Planning and Development Lab webpage to see the exciting, award-winning applied planning work done by our students and faculty.

Our department’s faculty members are widely recognized for their research in the following areas:

Planning for an Aging Population

Faculty: Brown, Duncan
Population aging is an enduring global phenomenon with profound implications for policy, planning, and communities. This creates opportunities and challenges for policy and planning at all levels and for community-based organizations. Faculty conducting research on Planning for an Aging Population investigate a number of issues affecting older adults in different contexts who are aging in community – housing, neighborhood environments, social opportunities, transportation, and other services – with a focus on developing planning strategies for improving the quality of life enjoyed by individuals of all ages and of diverse social and economic backgrounds and different physical abilities. Many faculty conducting research in this area are affiliated with the Center for Accessibility and Safety for an Aging Population or the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, both located at Florida State University.

Planning for Healthy and Resilient Communities

Faculty: Butler, Coutts, Holmes

Planning for community health focuses on how the built and natural environments influence community health and health behaviors. The built and natural environments are foundational determinants of health. The design of the built environment and the conservation of the natural environment affect the provision of the basic elements of life (water, food, air) as well as higher-order needs (mental health, physical activity) and social outcomes such as social capital and social justice. Resilience scholarship contributes a framework for examining how complex and dynamic social-ecological systems respond to perturbations and crises. This framework provides insights into how communities can adapt to changing internal and external conditions, transform from undesirable system states to more desirable ones, and engage in processes that promote social learning in the face of uncertainty.

Transportation, Land Use and Accessibility

Faculty: Brown, Duncan, Felkner
Accessibility refers to the ability of individuals of all ages and abilities to reach the diverse array of destinations required to engage in socially rich and economically productive lives. Faculty conducting research on Transportation, Land Use and Accessibility examine the connections between the way we plan and organize transportation systems and the pattern of urban development in order to identify strategies to enhance the accessibility of all persons. Faculty are particularly interested in the impacts of new mobility technologies, such as automated vehicles, on land development patterns and the accessibility, mobility, and physical and social well-being of persons of all ages and backgrounds, and planning strategies to promote the use of more sustainable modes of transportation, such as biking, walking, and public transit.

Sustainable Communities

Faculty: Butler, Coutts, Felkner, Holmes
Sustainability is a guiding principle in urban planning, one with a focus on the long-term ability of societies to provide for the needs of its members, while also protecting and enhancing the natural resources that allow these societies to prosper. The concept of sustainability now shapes many community plans, urban and rural land planning policies, and public infrastructure investments. Faculty in the Sustainable Communities research theme are working to evaluate how sustainability is being included in regional and community plans and policies, as well as the impact of these plans and policies on the built environment. This research yields insights into land use, resource use, and infrastructure planning practices in Florida and around the globe, and prepares graduates of the program to be leaders in this fast-growing arena of the profession.

Collaborative and Participatory Governance

Faculty: Butler, Holmes
Since the 1970s, a quiet revolution has been occurring in planning—one that seeks to enhance democratic participation, reduce conflict, and strengthen organizational effectiveness through collaboration. The emergent transformation has implications for how we seek to address “wicked” problems that are characterized by great complexity, dynamism, and uncertainty. This area is particularly oriented to environmental issues but also can be applied to address issues of growing inequality, climate change, energy transitions, community revitalization, economic development, and the intersectionality of these issues. DURP faculty have focused on researching ground-breaking efforts to scale up collaboration for landscape-scale ecological restoration, engage in cross-collaborative learning networks, work on place-based social-ecological resilience in resource-dependent communities, and address the co-management of hazard threats such as wildfire and sea level rise. These projects aim to illuminate how to overcome barriers to collaboration, examine how learning and innovation dissemination occurs, clarify the value added as well as costs of engaging in participatory approaches, and what challenges and opportunities exist to collaborate as projects transition from planning to implementation.

Human Settlements and Institutions in the Context of Global Change

Faculty: Coutts, Felkner, Holmes
For the first time in human history, more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban settlements, and by 2050 that proportion will increase to 70 percent. Almost all of the urban population growth in the next 30 years will occur in cities of developing countries. Many of these urban residents live in precarious situations because of their lack of access to water, sanitation, legal tenure, and economic opportunity, and the demand for improved planning for these areas will only intensify. Faculty working within this research group recognize the global scope of these problems and the need to develop creative problem-solving solutions. Some faculty are exploring the threats to human health, community cohesion, and resource sustainability posed by rapid development and climate change. Others are exploring the changing demand for infrastructure in the context of rapid urbanization. Other work explores strategies to include the most vulnerable communities in the planning process by emphasizing decentralization, increasing local participation, empowering women’s organizations, and identifying other marginalized groups.

Recent faculty publications are listed on individual faculty webpages and select published papers can be found through the FSU Library’s Diginole document repository.

The Department’s students are recognized for the high-quality doctoral dissertations, master’s theses, master’s papers, and client projects they produce. You can find recent doctoral dissertations and master’s theses at the FSU library’s electronic theses and dissertations website. Master’s papers, client projects, and studio projects may be found by clicking the appropriate link.