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Big data versus big intelligence: integrated green-smart urban planning

Mark Hewlett | 18 Jun 2015 | Comments

With the world’s population continuing to rapidly urbanise, there is now growing recognition among urban planners around the globe that new, more sustainable models of urbanisation form a crucial underpinning for economic development.

This is particularly apparent in East Asia where almost 200 million people have moved to cities in the first decade of the 21st century, according to the World Bank, and economies are rapidly transitioning up the value chain.

Quite simply, to be successful, to thrive, cities of the future will require carbon and resource efficient, low impact, human scale development, in harmony with natural systems. Atkins is helping to drive this through its Future Proofing Cities (FPC) initiative.

Continuing rapid advances in ICT and data analytics are driving new ‘smart’ approaches to city planning and management. Unlocking the vast amounts of digital data generated by cities holds the promise of new more open, citizen-centric, collaborative models of operation and enhanced service delivery.

Surface intelligent transport systems
Surface intelligent transport systems – Transport for London, UK

Atkins’ approach focuses in particular on application of smart approaches to infrastructure and building design, using digital technologies to drive innovative, efficient and more sustainable solutions. This is closely coupled with our strong emphasis on green planning and design approaches, which we term ‘green-smart’, seeking to optimise the many synergies between green and smart planning and design in creating more resilient, successful urban development.

As well as lower carbon, more resource efficient development, and overall more robust, higher quality planning and design, green-smart approaches can also often result in very direct economic benefits: capital and operational cost savings, new revenue streams and higher land values. Such approaches can be formulated to closely dove-tail with wider smart city strategic initiatives, providing a wealth of high value information which can be leveraged in a wide variety of e-services.

Integrate, collaborate, innovate

Transit Oriented Development - Baoyuwan Conceptual Master Plan, Dalian Software Park, China. Our approach focuses in particular on the application of smart approaches to infrastructure and building design, using digital technologies to drive innovative, efficient and more sustainable solutions. This is closely coupled with our strong emphasis on green planning and design approaches, which we term ‘green-smart’, seeking to optimise the many synergies between green and smart planning and design in creating more resilient, successful urban development.
Transit Oriented Development – Baoyuwan conceptual masterplan, Dalian Software Park, China.

Fundamental to the FPC approach is integration. This means technical, process and conceptual integration. But essentially what it boils down to in many cases is collaboration between practitioners: land use planners talking to transport planners; planners talking to engineers; planners and engineers talking to IT specialists. Holistic, joined up thinking allows linkages to be made and opportunities identified that might otherwise have eluded us: a single solution may satisfy multiple functions and provide multiple benefits. Integration and collaboration are increasingly critical for innovation in the multifaceted domain of urban development.

The FPC approach (as used in the Baoyuwan conceptual masterplan – see image) provides city planners and managers with a clear, holistic framework to address the key global challenges of the 21st century of human induced climate change, resource scarcity and ecological degradation, to develop truly sustainable cities which provide responsible economic development, great places to live, work and visit, and effective systems, both physical and digital, to connect places and people.

Focusing on practical, affordable solutions, the FPC approach emphasises the many linkages and win-win benefits of integrated green-smart urban planning, fostering collaboration and innovation. In essence, it is about creating more successful urban development.