Living in Denver for the past four years, the change has been dramatic, palpable. Rent prices leading the national average (…and not in a good way). Congestion, traffic, a boom town from the Gold Rush, Denver is booming yet again. Our city it seems, as grown a bit too big for our britches and can’t keep up with the influx of population.

These growing pains, are not unique. In fact, it is indeed the norm, worldwide. The UN projects by 2040, 80 percent of the world’s population will be living in what is classified as urban, city dwelling (Fortune, 2015).

And, when we look at what is greatest impact regarding reducing our environmental impact, improve constituent’s quality of life, reduce congestion, study after study source one key piece as the most vital in being able to improve quality of living, as well as the environment: Affordable Housing.

On the local level, the city and county of Denver is deploying initiatives to tackle the population, congestion pains, environmental impact as well as develop innovative solutions for these challenges… all while trying to squeeze every inch out of the city’s current infrastructure. As a runner-up to the United States Department of Transportation Smart City challenge, Denver is leveraging this grant submission and deploying pieces of their plan, as well as leveraging a multi-tiered stakeholder integration of both public and private partnerships.

Panasonic CityNOW in partnership with the city and county of Denver formed a technology test kitchen of sorts, located at Peña Station Next. Deploying smart city technology, this living lab is providing the city insight into the costs and outcomes in evaluating smart city impacts. Panasonic CityNOW selected Denver after vetting cities nationwide. Why Denver? The $1.2 billion annual cost of traffic, 238,000 hours of delay per day, it’s the 7th fastest growing metro area in the United States, and the overall goal of 80 percent GHG reduction target (Source: Panasonic CityNOW).

Peña Station Next is the site of the United State’s Solar Decathlon contest.  As the site of the Solar Decathlon, the UC Berkley and University of Denver team in partnership are echoing the successful partnership by the city of Denver and Panasonic CityNOW. Leveraging our collective strengths and creativity to create RISE.

What is RISE? It’s a modular, scalable, intentional design.

It’s a collaboration, a creation, a labor of love from a collective unit, utilizing our individual powers for the greater good. RISE is shared passion for creating scalable, real world solutions.

It’s a collaboration of both public, private, students, professors, university administrators, architects, engineers, contractor’s heck even a computer programmer (yours truly!) ….an entire community dedicated to creating a solution. For Denver, for California…and for the entire world.

Because, together. We Rise.

Erin O’Neill is on the Solar Decathlon team. She graduated in June of 2017 with a Master of Science in Information Technology from the University of Denver.