Department of Design and Construction311Search all websites

Action Research

Town+Gown’s systemic action research program uses service (experiential) learning and faculty-directed research to facilitate partnerships between academics and practitioners on applied built environment research projects through the collaborative inquiry model of systemic action research.


Service (Experiential) Learning Component


    Town+Gown began by developing projects within service (experiential) learning programs at participating academic institutions. These in-kind exchanges, where students provide their newly learned skills and practitioners provide real problems with real data and other information to produce knowledge, are a vital component of the Town+Gown program.

    Town+Gown has created projects with formal experiential learning programs (such as studios, workshops, capstones, clinics, service learning programs), informal experiential learning engagements, master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, and graduate and undergraduate classes or components of these classes.

    Experiential learning engagements provide benefits to both students and practitioners. Watch our video to learn about the impact of a series of experiential learning engagements from both academic and practitioner perspectives. 

    See also this article.


  • Research Agenda

    The Research Agenda is a tool for Town+Gown and experiential learning program administrators, professors and students to use to begin a research project-based conversation. If you are interested in any of the proposed research project ideas in this 2021-2022 Action Research Agenda, please contact Terri Matthews, Director, at, and we can discuss how to tailor it to meet your needs for a specific project in 2021-2022. If the project goes “live” in 2021-2022, Town+Gown will strive to support the project by connecting the research team with practitioner experts, many of them City agency staff, publicly available data sets, general city government advice with respect to the project context, and setting up meetings, including mid-project and final presentations, with research team members. In exchange, Town+Gown will request final deliverables from the research team to enable Town+Gown to abstract the project in Building Ideas and use as a foundation for future Symposium events.

    If you have a research project idea not in the current research agenda, please contact Terri Matthews to discuss your idea—you may use the Research Question Worksheet if you find that helpful, but it is not necessary to use the worksheet to initiate the conversation.

  • EPIC-N Program

  • Town+Gown participates in the EPIC-N program.

Faculty-Directed Research Component

Faculty-directed research is accomplished through Town+Gown's Master Contracts and through third-party funded research, such as National Science Foundation grants focusing on New York City, for which Town+Gown is a named collaborator.

  • Master Applied Construction Innovation Research Services Contract

    Town+Gown used the PPB Rule 3-04 “negotiated acquisition” vehicle to create a master contract for research specifically targeted to practice-based innovation in construction, engineering design, and management with the Institute of Design and Construction Innovation Hub at New York University, Tandon School of Engineering (“Institute”), which is a membership-based and industry-supported academic research center that conducts applied and practice-based research, within its collaborative platform of faculty and industry members who are experienced and independent experts, on innovation in construction, engineering design, and management aimed at improving efficiency and cost control, while emphasizing sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and safety (“Institute’s Targeted Research Services”). This is Town+Gown’s first master contract with a membership-based research center and is distinct from the Master Academic Consortium Contract (see above). This model is available to other membership-based research centers wishing to work with City agencies that cannot participate as members.

    The Master Applied Construction Innovation Research Services Contract shares features with the Master Academic Consortium Contract with respect to requesting entities using their own funds and the templates for RFPs, Proposal in Response and Task Orders discussed above.

    Master Applied Construction Innovation Research Services Contract and Appendix A

    Requesting entities should contact the Director of Town+Gown with any questions about the process or template documents.


  • Third-Party Funded Research

    Town+Gown is available to become a named collaborator on third-party grant funded research projects. If a researcher is interested in exploring having Town+Gown as a named collaborator, please contact Terri Matthews, Director.


    • Unification for Underground Resilience Measures (UNUM)
    • Town+Gown is a named collaborator on a $1.5 million National Science Foundation-funded Civic Innovation Challenge (CIC) award supporting community-based solutions to mobility and disaster resilience. The Stage 2 Award will further a collaborative project supported by a $50,000 CIC Stage 1 Award to address this challenge by creating a digitized, open, underground infrastructure road map. Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Midtown East, Manhattan neighborhoods will serve as testbeds for city-level implementation of a subsurface data model to assemble data sets to prepare study sites against natural disasters. Community workshops and an interactive art exhibit will occur in Sunset Park during the spring months in an effort to increase infrastructure literacy and knowledge of the underground. The National Science Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Energy, offered the Stage 2 grants to 17 U.S. teams out of the 50 who received the earlier Stage 1 planning grant. These grants go to collaborations comprising civic partners such as local and state officials and non-profit and community leaders to conduct and evaluate ready-to-implement pilot projects that address community-identified challenges.

    • Sustainable Healthy Cities Network
    • Town+Gown was a named collaborator with the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, a $12 million National Science Foundation-funded sustainability research network led by the University of Minnesota, Columbia University and Georgia Institute of Technology, for which New York City one of the “test bed” cities.  Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities, the network’s overall project, conducts scientific research to permit cities to reimagine their urban infrastructure—energy grids, road networks, green spaces, and food and water systems—and remain highly functional and desirable places to live and work, while promoting the health of residents and the environment.


Back to Town+Gown