Adam Blair came to UB intending to major in mechanical engineering, but knew to keep his mind open. “I came to UB because of its size—I wanted to make sure I had other degree options and that I wouldn’t be limited.” Wise move: After exploring those options, he realized that he was more interested in the social and political sides of engineering. So he met with RJ Multari, director of advisement at UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. “He was really inspiring, and he told me a lot of things about environmental design, a lot of things I’d never known.” Once he’d committed to environmental design, Adam looked for ways to put his studies to practical use.
He heard about Professor Robert Shibley’s Urban Design Project, which was doing some work for the university’s master plan for growth, a component of UB 2020. The idea of taking part really excited him. On a whim, he asked if they were taking on interns. One quick interview and he was hired. On the project, Adam created GIS maps of the new campus master plan and contributed to studies that have helped shape the plan’s overall framework.
Adam and Susan Cronin working with emissions monitoring equipment during bus testing for Erie County.
But Adam’s interests go beyond the built environment and into transportation’s impact on public health. That’s why he became involved in a collaborative research project to help reduce bus emissions for a local school district. With county funding, the group installed monitoring equipment on buses and tested their emissions systems before making recommendations on ways to improve their performance. “The retrofits we did definitely reduced the levels of toxic material—but there’s more work to do,” he says.
Even closer to home, he also helped analyze the emissions of UB’s own shuttle fleet. “We tested the emissions of the Stampede running on diesel and then running on biodiesel, and biodiesel burns cleaner,” he says. “Even a small blend will help.”
Adam and the Urban Renewal Student Association in New Orleans to renovate homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Now Adam has joined with some UB graduate students to create Buffalo Car Share, a nonprofit, community-based car sharing program funded in part by the New York State Department of Transportation. Currently more than 200 members share seven cars, helping to reduce fuel emissions while they enjoy convenient and affordable transportation. The team is working on expanding to the Amherst campus so that UB students without cars will have even greater access to the city.
According to Adam, Buffalo is an ideal place to study—and practice—urban design. Once he started at UB, he immediately loved the city. It deeply enhances the learning experience, offering opportunities you won’t get from a lot of other places and smaller schools.
“There’s a lot of history in the architecture, and there’s a lot more passion in this area for good design and good planning,” he’s noticed. And he finds no greater evidence of this than in Buffalo’s park system, particularly Delaware Park. “We’re lucky to have the Olmsted parks system, which is rare for a lot of cities,” he says. “I can definitely see myself coming back here to work.”
Last updated: December 11, 2013 3:31 am EST