CE-CERT: The City of Riverside’s Essential Bellwether of Sustainability

Published: 6/6/2022

Students at North High School work with CE-CERT on a project to measure air quality. Courtesy CE-CERT

Students at North High School work with CE-CERT on a project to measure air quality. Courtesy CE-CERT

For the team at the Bourns College of Engineering, Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), sustainability isn’t just for celebrating Earth Month. It’s a year-round commitment to innovation, education, and a healthier future.

As the largest multidisciplinary research center at the University of California, Riverside, CE-CERT is highly engaged with the community to tackle some of the state’s most pressing environmental challenges in air quality, climate change, energy, and transportation — often juggling up to 50 projects simultaneously.

“We use engineering to improve sustainability from a safety perspective, from an environmental perspective, and with a certain degree of efficiency,” said Matthew Barth, UCR professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of CE-CERT.

One such project is a recently launched multi-year study focused on the sustainable movement of goods to mitigate air pollution and safety issues caused by increased freight activity. CE-CERT monitors emissions from truck fleets around various cargo hubs and air quality in the surrounding communities.

“We are developing strategies such as innovative truck routing for large warehouses and logistics companies to reduce health impacts,” Barth said.


CE-CERT is working with the Volvo Group on its sustainable fleet management

CE-CERT is working with the Volvo Group on its sustainable fleet management. Courtesy CE-CERT

Many of CE-CERT’s projects are supported by an ongoing partnership with the City of Riverside, including the development of the Innovation Corridor, a three-mile section of University Avenue between the UCR campus and downtown. The City helped equip the corridor with roadside communication, advanced traffic signal controllers, and video systems at several key intersections to create a perfect environment for CE-CERT’s research of safety, mobility, and environmental sustainability.

“We call it a testbed,” said Barth, whose team of researchers carries out connected vehicle experimentation that utilizes the signal phase and timing data from those intersections to adjust vehicle speeds, smooth traffic flow, and reduce emissions.

In addition, CE-CERT is helping neighborhoods across Riverside improve transit options as part of a state-funded grant awarded to the City. The center works with the City to measure air quality in various locations such as Eastside’s John W. North High School with the goal of finding solutions that create a more sustainable environment for future generations. 

Barth attributes Riverside’s sustainability focus primarily to a long-standing history of leadership, citing the commitment of the current City Council and Mayor and their predecessors. “It’s significant to have leaders who really understand and want to move things forward from an environmental perspective,” he said. For example, the City Council approved a Strategic Plan, in 2020, that includes a cross-cutting theme of “Sustainability and Resiliency” along with goals related to air quality, carbon neutrality and sustainable modes of transportation. 

2022 marks 30 years of CE-CERT’s dedication to innovation in Riverside. Part of the institution’s legacy celebration includes raising over $100,000 for graduate student research awards. And, to commemorate April’s Earth Month, CE-CERT participated in a sustainability retreat at the UCR Botanic Gardens for faculty, students, and staff to discuss the region’s environmental outlook.

“It’s important to reflect on where we are and where we’re going to create a sustainable future,” Barth said. 


CE-CERT is working with the Volvo Group on its sustainable fleet management

 Matthew Barth speaking at the center’s 30th-anniversary celebration. Courtesy CE-CERT

For residents wondering how to get involved, Barth encourages the community to take advantage of UCR’s resources by engaging with a project or attending a seminar to learn more about sustainability efforts. 

“CE-CERT empowers the campus and the community,” Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said. “Not only does the research center excel in talent and innovation, but it inspires attention and action through environmental education.”

For more about the Center for Environmental Research and Technology, go to www.cert.ucr.edu.