Using robots to clear snow, creating community through neighborhood brew pubs and developing energy-efficient manufactured residences as affordable housing are just a few of the topics to be discussed at an upcoming university conference focusing on building resilient and innovative communities. 

On Saturday, Oct. 21, Community Building Colorado-Style, a conference sponsored by the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and CU Boulder's Community Engagement, Design and Research (CEDaR) Center, will create a bridge between local governments and the university. Speakers and panelists will discuss innovations to encourage small businesses, smart city technologies, creative districts, mobile and manufactured housing communities, green infrastructure strategies, and citizen and youth engagement in city design.

Red dragon float in the middle of historic Trinidad, Colorado

The annual Artocade or art car festival in Trinidad, one of 18 creative districts spurring economic growth in the state. (Image provided by Artocade)


"Coloradans want to live in communities that are culturally rich and economically vibrant," says Brian Muller, CEDaR's director. "They also want neighborhoods that offer creative opportunities for small businesses, empower citizens to participate in local decision-making and take advantage of new technologies. The university can play an important role in helping communities design these places and manage critical urban problems."

Ishbel Dickens, a private consultant and former executive director of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association, will discuss opportunities for cities that preserve manufactured communities for low-income households.

"The majority of manufactured homeowners don't have the resources to own both the land and their homes, yet they still want the American dream of home ownership," she says.

Dickens says manufactured housing could be the perfect choice for young families and seniors because the homes are affordable, on one floor, easy to maintain and energy efficient. But some things need to change for this to become a good option, she says.

Banks need to provide the same loans for manufactured housing as site-built homes, and laws need to be established to prevent landlords from raising rents unreasonably and imposing onerous/unreasonable rules. Unlike apartments, where residents can move out, manufactured homes are generally immoveable, making it difficult for owners to contemplate alternatives when they can no longer afford the rent.

"I want to encourage stronger legal protections for people who own their homes, but not the land underneath, so that this becomes a more equitable living situation," she says.

Duer Reeves, chief operations officer of Longmont-based Left Hand Robotics, will speak about the company's SnowBot PRO robots, which soon will begin "supervised" pilot programs in Colorado for snow removal from walking paths.

"The arrival of robots in our Colorado communities is inevitable because the infrastructure is in place with Global Positioning Satellites, cellular networks, sensor technology, electronics and cloud computing," Reeves says.

At the conference, Reeves will also discuss how using robots reduces the danger of operator fatigue but introduces the challenge of ensuring robots "behave courteously" when coming in contact with people or physical obstacles.

"We are working to operate most effectively and safely within a community context," Reeves says.

Mara Mintzer, program director for Growing Up Boulder, will moderate a panel about effectively engaging children and youth in Colorado urban planning.  The panel will include experts from Growing Up Boulder, the city of Boulder's Youth Opportunities Advisory Board, Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza in Lafayette and Delta County's The Nature Connection.

"Our goal is to highlight real-world, Colorado examples of how young people not only can contribute to planning but can improve it for everyone," Mintzer says.

Conference topics also include deepening partnerships with communities across the state through the MetroLab model. MetroLab is a national network of city-university partnerships, where universities provide technological and analytically based solutions to challenges facing urban areas, such as inequality in income, health and mobility. CU Boulder and the cities of Boulder and Denver are members of the MetroLab network.

CEDaR is a collaborative of faculty and students that works with cities and other local partners to build vital, equitable and sustainable communities. The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is an international nonprofit organization working to build vibrant and well-designed communities.

Community Building Colorado-Style is supported by CU Boulder's Office for Outreach and Engagement, the Program in Environmental Design, and the Research & Innovation Office.