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The Caivan Group-University of Waterloo and leading real estate
April 3, 2024

University of Waterloo and The Caivan Group launch the Future Cities Institute

The University of Waterloo and Ontario land development and homebuilding company The Caivan Group are launching The Future Cities Institute thanks to a transformational $10-million commitment from Caivan. The Institute will bring together some of the top minds in the country and provide the resources they need to tackle the greatest challenges facing urban spaces now, and in the future.

FCI is an interdisciplinary hub housed within Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment. Drawing on expertise from across faculties and leveraging partnerships with industry and government, FCI will take on big issues like the modernization of city planning and the optimization of infrastructure to prioritize not only how cities will be laid out, but also, how they will be sustainable. Deep examinations of the root causes of pressing issues, like housing and urban transportation, will lead to the development of data-supported toolkits and practical guides that industry and governments can apply to urban policy and building to drive prosperity for all. 

FCI will bring Waterloo’s considerable applied science and engineering expertise and aptitude for fostering entrepreneurial problem-solvers to the field of city building. It will create a global network of academia, government, industry, and grassroots organizations to mobilize a large body of quantitative research and train a new generation of leaders. Its focus will be on four key areas of research: housing, modelling, mobility and sustainable infrastructure, and how they intersect with sustainability, economics, society, health and technology.

The Institute marks an expansion of the Future Cities Initiative, which evolved out of Waterloo at 100, the university’s strategic vision guiding what the school will be known for in its centennial year, 2057. The initiative brought together global thinkers across disciplines to identify equitable and sustainable solutions for the future of cities, humanity, and our planet.

“I’m excited to see our researchers joining forces with industry experts like Caivan to combine their considerable knowledge and apply it to solving the complex challenges cities of the future will face,” said University of Waterloo President and Vice-Chancellor Vivek Goel. “This is the kind of innovative, forward-looking partnership we need to embrace if we truly want to solve humanity’s most challenging issues. We need academic excellence; we need on-the-ground expertise; and we need those two things to work together. I’m proud that this is happening at Waterloo.”

Caivan CEOs and Co-Founders Frank Cairo and Troy van Haastrecht, both alumni of the University of Waterloo, have supported the school’s Future Cities Initiative since 2021, donating an initial $1 million to seed the initiative. Caivan is active in more than 50 communities across the Greater Toronto Area and in Ottawa. Through its housing innovation arm, the Advanced Building Innovation Company (ABIC), Caivan uses advanced manufacturing and a suite of proprietary software harnessing artificial intelligence, land-use optimization algorithms, and generative design tools to drive efficiency, quality, and sustainability in its product.

“The University of Waterloo is renowned globally for the quality of its graduates, its innovation and cutting-edge research. It’s this track record that the Future Cities Institute will leverage to build a healthy, resilient, and prosperous future for all,” said Caivan Co-Founder and CEO Troy van Haastrecht. “Our cities’ problems are complex, but the Institute’s success metric is simple: devising solutions that will make a difference in the world.”

“The number and magnitude of challenges humanity will be confronted with in the decades ahead will test our resolve and our ability to effectively collaborate,” said Caivan Co-Founder and CEO Frank Cairo. “The Institute will foster thought-provoking debate, challenge orthodoxy, and produce research that allows city builders to make evidence-based decisions. The pursuit of science and truth is the unifying element in this age of growing dogma.”

In addition to the current Master of Future Cities program, FCI will now offer a Master of Engineering (MEng) degree in Future Cities, a Graduate Diploma program where students from graduate programs will be eligible to specialize in Future Cities.

The FCI will be led by Director Leia Minaker, who is also an Associate Professor in the School of Planning. FCI will also be overseen by an Advisory Board that will advise foundational knowledge for academic programming and identify opportunities to embed work-integrated learning. The Advisory Board will work with the Director, and leads from the Master of Future Cities program, and the MEng program to ensure curriculum alignment with the overall Future Cities vision.

“The world is urbanizing faster than ever before, and the future is uncertain,” said Minaker. “Future Cities will explore the trends, innovations, and technological disruptions to help us craft policies and practices that better anticipate change. To do that, academics and planners need to work directly with the people and companies who are on the ground day-to-day building cities, developing new technology, and making consequential decisions. I’m excited to venture into uncertain territory with a diverse group of experts committed to building sustainable and thriving cities.”


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