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Shaping Resource Flows

Rethinking Our Resource Management

Novel approaches to managing resource flows require new ways of thinking and interacting with stakeholders and society, who are the ultimate managers, consumers and also producers of resources.

Given the limited and uneven distribution of resources, we are re-envisioning resources management, built on a circularity mindset, systems thinking, and deeper engagement. Our plan is to implement cutting-edge scientific methods, craft novel business models, and create more equitable access to resources, thereby challenging the traditional ways of resource management. We are transitioning from a single-use mentality to a system-level, circular mindset. Leveraging co-design and community engagement, we aim to facilitate knowledge retransfer and promote conservation-oriented behaviors. By mapping and managing the interconnected dynamics of resource systems, we will shape resource flows toward holistic, system-level outcomes that optimize resource use. Materials once deemed waste can now be safely reclaimed and utilized by communities. We are shaping resource flows through initiatives like extracting rich nutrients from urine to produce fertilizers for agriculture and maximizing carbon sequestration in the cementitious material and product production phase.  This circular approach to resource management will play a central role in educating the upcoming generation of civil and environmental engineers.

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What does it mean to shape resource flows?

Associate Professor Krista Wigginton discusses how civil and environmental engineers can shape resource flows to create a more sustainable future.

  • 200 billion

    In 2015, 200 billion gallons of stormwater went down the drain in California, enough to supply 1.4 million households for a year.

  • $300 billion

    In the next 10 years, U.S. local governments will spend over $300 billion to replace 1.6 million miles of aging water infrastructure.

  • 16 kilos

    On average, everyone uses 16 kilos of resources extracted from earth every day—metal, fossil energy and minerals. If you live in the western world, this number is much higher—up to 57 kilos of newly-mined minerals per day.

Our Approach

Our strategic directions have a broad impact on the way we operate, influencing our approach to research, education and outreach. Explore some examples of how we are implementing the concept of Shaping Resource Flows across our department.


  1. A person stands in front of a bathroom stall, gesturing towards an infographic on the door.


    Like many other human wastes, source-separated urine is rich in valuable resources, namely nitrogen and phosphorus. Our researchers are developing new technologies to collect urine and convert it into fertilizer. We also seek to understand and address the infrastructure and societal barriers to capturing nutrients from urine.

  2. Ocean waves crash and spray against wavebreakers.

    Making Waves

    Ocean wave energy constitutes a tremendous, untapped resource for utility-scale power in the United States. However, the development of devices to harness this resource is an enormous challenge. Not only must such devices be able to survive the harsh conditions encountered during storms and hurricanes, but they must also be equipped with sophisticated control systems that maximize the amount of energy they harvest from random waves. At the University of Michigan, researchers are collaborating with a number of commercial wave energy device developers to better understand control system design for these devices and to maximize energy output.

  3. A person in a lab coat and safety gear stands in front of a large rack of testing equipment.

    Resource Cycles

    The way we harvest and leverage resources is constrained by how we initiate the infrastructure design process; it is influenced by “the way things have always been done.” We are re-envisioning the value of wastewater, stormwater, solid waste and even waves as resources by exploring disruptive and transformative approaches to achieve efficiencies in resource harvesting. Here, a University of Michigan researcher works with a system that achieves resource recovery through energy offsets, enabled by sensor-mediated control.

  4. A piece of concrete is placed into a dark tube by a person wearing protective gloves.

    Lock It Down

    University of Michigan researchers are finding ways to sequester carbon in manmade materials, such as engineered cementitious composites or “bendable concrete” as shown here. The resulting product not only locks away carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere, but also has mechanical properties that may be superior to traditional concrete.


Undergraduate and Graduate Courses

Courses such as “Advanced Fiber Reinforced Concrete for Sustainable Infrastructure,” “Subsurface Energy Systems” and “Materials Selection for Sustainable Design” introduce students to a cyclical view of resources for more sustainable engineering.


Engineered Cementitious Composites

The Center for Low Carbon Built Environment (CLCBE) seeks to cut the built environment’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2030. With partnerships across the value chain of building and infrastructure, the center is creating a new circular economy around climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Outreach to the U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality

Our outreach efforts include working with the President’s office to assist U-M in reaching its goal of achieving carbon neutrality through carbon sequestration, reduced emissions, energy sourcing, policy change and technology development.


University of Michigan partners on multi-institution planning effort for state’s water future

The University of Michigan will work with Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and regional and state stakeholders to craft policies that will ensure safe drinking water at low cost.
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    CEE Engineers Receive Erb Family Foundation Grants

    U-M CEE engineers have received two grants totalling more than $1.17 million from the Erb Family Foundation to research regional coordination, with a focus on optimizing wastewater and stormwater systems operations, and assisting residents and municipalities in managing these water issues using digital tools.

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    Grant Seeks to Improve Storm Surge Barriers

    CEE Associate Prof. Jeremy Bricker is part of a research team that has received a $400,000 grant over three years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) social behavioral economics domain to estimate hurricane building damage and recovery inequity using insurance and social survey data.

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    NSF Grant Will Support Research to Reduce Wildfire Threats

    Ann Jeffers is the lead P.I. on a project that just received a grant for almost $600,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a computational model that will allow researchers to predict structural ignitions under wildfire exposure.

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Featured Faculty

Jeff Scruggs

Jeff Scruggs

Making Waves


(734) 764-1812

Lutgarde Raskin

Lutgarde Raskin

Understanding Microbiomes


(734) 647-6920

Nancy G. Love

Nancy G. Love

Peecycling, Resource Cycles


(734) 763-9664

SangHyun Lee

SangHyun Lee

Sensing Stress, Engineered Cementitious Composites


(734) 764-9420

Branko Kerkez Portrait

Branko Kerkez

The Water Experience, How Cities Work, Resource Cycles, Information Flow, Undergraduate Focus: Smart Cities, Urban Collaboratory Projects, Predicting Performance


(734) 647-0727

Brian Ellis

Brian R. Ellis

Center for Socially Engaged Design, Lock It Down, Undergraduate and Graduate Courses, Engineered Cementitious Composites


(734) 763-5470

Krista Rule Wigginton

Krista Rule Wigginton


(734) 763-9661

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