New Technologies, New Tools for Sustainable Planning

Cities are complex assemblages of people, houses, roads, bridges, subways, cars, parks, animals, pipelines, wireless networks, phones, cameras and so on. While technological developments have significantly contributed to this complexity, they also offer new solutions for future urban developments. In this issue of Nordregio News, researchers explore new technologies and new tools for sustainable urban planning. From different perspectives the three articles provide new insights on innovative planning tools and models for managing complexity at different scales.

In the first article, Urban Form and Sustainability: the Planner's Toolbelt, Ryan Weber, Lars Berglund and Christian Fredricsson emphasize the benefits of integrated approaches to planning. Through new sophisticated technologies and models more and more factors can be considered simultaneously, which can provide more accurate future predictions of different planning strategies and policies. Innovative integrated modeling systems also include new visualisations which can help in collaborative decision making processes. Urban models are usually used at the city-regional scale but there are also new and ready to use planning tools at a more local scale.

In the second article, Sustainability Certification of Neighbourhoods: Experience from DGNB New Urban Districts in Denmark, Jesper Ole Jensen, discusses the Danish experiences of sustainability certification as a planning tool. The pilot testing of these schemes are promising, but there future implementation is dependent on institutional support from public authorities and acceptance and diffusion from actors within the development industry. During the last decades many modeling systems and certification schemes have been developed which are now available for planners and policy makers to use, but there are also a resurgent research interest in developing new models using new technologies.

How to take planning models to the next level by taking advantage of new technologies, is discussed by Joan Serras, Melanie Bosredon, Ricardo Herranz, and Michael Batty in the final article; Urban Planning and Big Data – Taking LUTi Models to the Next Level?. They argue that the big data, i.e. unstructured and dynamic data difficult to fit into simple tables and charts; which is constantly been collected through new technologies and social media, has huge potentials, but that there is still a lot of technical challenges regarding computing and visualization. It might also be added that the new technologies also present ethical and political challenges, both with regard to the use (or miss-use) of data (and data-collection) and implementation within planning practices. In the end the crucial question is how we choose to use (or not use) the new opportunities provided by these technological advantages to foster inclusive and sustainable urban development.

How urban planning can contribute to create sustainable and attractive urban areas is also the main topic of the Nordic working group on green growth: sustainable urban regions. During the current program period 2013-2016, the working group will further explore this topic and different tools of how urban and regional planning can support green growth and simultaneously manage important challenges such as demographic transformation, social inclusion, climate change. The working group has a focus on the fast growing urban areas within the Nordic countries where these challenges particular articulated and manifested.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Nordregio News!

Lukas Smas

Senior Research Fellow

and the Editorial Board

Back to Nordregio News Issue 1, 2014