I am Yilun Zha.

Urban Planner, Urban Designer, Urban Data Scientist, and more...


Data + Design + Democracy = Healthy Places

I am a PhD Candidate in Urban Design at the School of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology. My work aims to inspire leaders in the public, private, and civic sectors to support healthy and equitable communities. Leveraging approaches from the field of planning, GIS, data science, and epidemiology, my research interest is focused on mapping and interpreting the impact of the built environment on human behaviors and health outcomes. Cities that ensure Good Health and Well-Being (SDG3, SDG17) is a foundamental public good, achievable through data empowerment, design interventions, and democratic decision-making processes.

My extensive research topics also include retrofitting suburbia (PI: Prof. Ellen Dunham-Jones), institutional investors of single-family rental housing (PI: Dr. Seumalu Elora Lee Raymond), interdisciplinary sustainability education (Brook Bryers Institute for Sustainable Systems), and governments' financial distress prediction (PI: Dr. Can Chen, GSU).

You can find my latest resume from here. (Last Updated on: 02/26/2024)


Large corporate buyers of residential rental housing during the COVID-19 pandemic

In this research brief, we describe spatio-longitudinal purchase patterns of single family rentals to reveal the impact of institutional investors on the housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic .

Do urban form characteristics perpetuate disparities of pandemic-induced mobility changes?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on urban mobility. This paper investigates associations between the morphological features of the built environment and changes in population mobility patterns during the pandemic.

Climate Change Data Inventory and Dashboard Scan

How does Metro Atlanta contribute to and has been affected by climate change? To monitor the trend and foster public awareness, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) is working on creating their first Climate Change Data Inventory.

Is the impact of voluntary Work From Home (WFH) on urban retail moderated by built environment characteristics?

Retail stores in urban office districts were reported to lose customers as a regional trend due to the Stay-At-Home mandate. As corporate policies shifted to voluntary Work From Home (WFH) post-pandemic, does the built environment play a role in distinguishing retail winners and losers of retail travel?

The SuRe Gap: Bridging the Gap Between Idealized and Attainable Infrastructure Sustainability and Resilience

The work aims to better understand the hurdles to successful implementation of successful of interdependent infrastructures so that we can better bridge the gap between idealized systems and attainable practices. We call this the SuRe gap.

Spatio-Temporal Modelling of Mobility Patterns and Exposure to COVID-19 in New York City

We have introduced a novel neural-network architecture that leverages mobility data to provide localized prediction of case rates. Since localized predictions is an important challenge in epidemiology, we believe our work will inspire methods that leverage county level and zip code level features and use neural models to accurately predict epidemic dynamics.

Socio-economic disparities in food activity spaces in Atlanta, 2019-2023

An observational study utilizing longitudinal datasets (2019-2023) enriched with geolocation tags to explore trends on socio-economic disparities in retail food activity spaces across Atlanta.

Georgia Environmentally Extended Input-Output Model (GAUSEEIO)

The US Environmentally Extended Input-Output Model (USEEIO) is a national life cycle model created by the US Environmental Protection Agency that combines environmental and economic data to characterize both positive and negative effects associated with the production and consumption of goods and services in the United States.

Does the marriage between public transit and freshfood help combat the “food apartheid”?

Initially launched in 2015, the Fresh MARTA market provides farm stands right inside our stations. Does the MARTA market promote public transit ridership? Does it encourage the adoption of a better food choice architecture at the population level?



Planning and urban design should not only be a profession, but a shared public service. With that idea in mind, I take every opportunities possible to support local communities.

From 2012-2014, serving as the deputy chair of Public Relations in CAUP Student Union, I with my colleagues organized more than 10 episodes of our signature "City Walking" event, the purpose of which is to invite academics and professionals to guide a free-to-public walk around the city and provide professional insights on urbanism, architecture, and so on. (The food is good as well!)

In 2016, Tracy Zhang and I served as volunteer designers to help Shiquan Community in Shanghai City develop a prototype of bike-fixing booth on the sidewalk of Shiquan Rd.

In 2020, a group of students from Georgia Tech including me helped Atlanta Community Food Bank to build a new warmhouse on a community garden in South Atlanta.

In 2022, I worked as a volunteer in a community meeting for the entry of a new corporate office in west Atlanta, hearing from residents of their concerns and expectations for the redevelopment project.