Professor: Innovation will change the future of working and living in Columbus

Imagining the city of the future is one area in which the university is making an impact.

By: Chris Booker

Published on July 28, 2017

The Columbus Dispatch is exploring the future of Columbus and central Ohio for a series called CBusNEXT. The Ohio State University will play a central role in determining the future of the region. Imagining the city of the future is one area in which the university is making an impact.

Central Ohio is already the fastest-growing region in the state and could add more than a million people in the next few decades. During rapid changes in automation, transportation and demographics, The Ohio State University will be helping lead development of the region.

“We will continue to see the community take advantage of the university as a cultural center,” said Ned Hill, professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and the City and Regional Planning section of the Knowlton School of Architecture. “It’s important that the university is keeping the campus alive and vital.”

Educating the educators

Hill said technology is forcing rapid change. He envisions a future where automation, 3-D printing and innovation will allow businesses to bring new products to market more quickly and cheaply than ever before.

The fully digital factory will disrupt traditional jobs. He says the 60,000 workers in central Ohio’s logistics industry face the greatest threat from automation.

Continuing education will be critical, Hill says. Columbus will need to turn into a “learning city” where workers continue to evolve their skills over the course of their career.

Hill says Ohio State can lead that effort in two ways:

“First by making the university more flexible so older adults continue their education. And that education may not be accumulating degrees. It may be adding technical certificates.

“The second way we can play a role will be as the institution that trains the trainers or educates the educators,” he said.

Ohio State’s regional campuses could play a similar role as community educators.

Building a sustainable community

Hill said another way Ohio State can lead the future is by drawing on its historic roots as a leading land grant institution. That includes maintaining a green and sustainable campus.

“The city needs to continue to accumulate green ways. If we try and buy green space 20 years out, it will be too expensive,” Hill said.

The city, county and the local metro park system should be acquiring green space in anticipation of growth as opposed to reacting to it.

“Ohio State should be at the forefront of conducting that conversation,” he said.

The university already has plans to keep the Columbus campus green and sustainable. In January, President Michael V. Drake announced Framework 2.0, a flexible plan for the future of the Columbus campus that emphasizes collaboration in learning and research while maintaining and improving green areas.

The changing face of housing

Columbus will also wrestle with an aging housing supply that will need to be replaced – and there are no easy answers, Hill said, noting that traditional 1950s style homes are not holding their value in the market in some neighborhoods.

Innovation will change houses in other ways. Ohio State is the lead research partner for the Smart Columbus project. The goal is to use technology to find new mobility solutions in central Ohio that will then become a model for the world.

The success of that project will likely change the future of housing as well. Gone will be the three-car garage, and urban areas will need far less parking.

But Hill said the end of the personal car is unlikely.

“Americans’ right to own a car is the second-and-a-half amendment. But I do expect the second and third automobile will disappear.”

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