Smart planning


city:one 2017-11-15 15:18 David Bárta : city:one Governance

In Autumn 2016 at Innovate UK, based on several years’ experience on smart cities agendas, the smart concept was explained as “organizational matter”, i.e. how we are able to organize our day-to-day as well as long term processes using digital means of today. The British are far more experienced now and through their Future Cities Catapult (government organization supporting innovations for British cities) they are investigating the new modern ways of urban planning, better use of land and saving time and money in decision making processes. For CEE cities this is a big opportunity to follow as we in majority fail in long term consistent planning and investments and this is visible mainly in ineffi ciency of EU funding use (in the middle of the EU funding period the approximate amount of money invested in V4 countries is only of 10 %).

Smart Cities concept is about the synergic interconnection of isolated city agendas/organizations, but also about interconnection of people within a particular location to help their city administration to tackle the local problems together. The best
things how to achieve this synergy is in opening all possible data and share it with each other as the British prove. This „big data“ approach makes possible to reorganize the processes how we plan, build and develop our cities as the data enables to measure various things in a single location. Future planning is a very good case to see what smart city approach is really about as it uses various data sources (e.g. city organizations ´ operations) on a single map for the benefi ts of all – city planners and decision makers, developers and other investors, small entrepreneurs as well as citizens. The data enables to analyse more of how we live in relation to how we build and to propose data driven and measurable improvements. We can compare
why a place is much more attractive than another. We can see the city e.g. from a satellite perspective, through a map with various data layers, with virtual 3D model or through augmented reality. All this can make a possibility to see the opportunities
or weaknesses of our planning/development before we actually start the building.

As we are able to use ever-improving computer performance for gaming industry and experience high quality textures of the virtual world why we could not use the same for our processes and city development? Imagine energy, transport, water and building
engineers and many other experts to go through the planning process of the new city development as a team of “computer game players” equipped with smart glasses in 3D model of the new city quarter and to see the placement of future wires, tubes,
roads and trees before the city investment into a new development project. Virtual inspection before deployment, this will be a new, smart approach for city development. For such an evolution leap, starting with data is the fi rst step.

The Future Cities Catapult has organized a competition on future urban planning and selected 9 diff erent innovations to create a brand new way of data driven planning. I have used some interesting posts below of the people directly engaged in the process
to present a part of the work.

: Brownfield Land Register

In January 2018 something exciting is happening in the British property and development world: the Brownfi eld Land Register – recently launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government – is coming in. This new Register will create consistency for the fi rst time, in how Local Planning Authorities report Brownfi eld Land giving a clear set of standards for the collection of data. The aggregated datasets will be made open on and and allow to build this national map. One tool, developed by ODI Leeds, shows how (standardised) open data can be used to give citizens and amateur developers the data needed to develop a planning application – or oppose one. It’s simple tools like this that can shake up the system by reducing head-scratching from citizens navigating the maze of planning applications, and the need for planners to repeatedly commission similar work from the same consultants year after year. It would also give local authorities greater control over their planning data and
city data models.

Mark Prisk MP, previous chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smart Cities, recently shared his thoughts on the benefi ts of opening up land data: “instead of being controlled by a small group of individuals as owners and producers, open digital land data will open up a whole raft of opportunities both for individuals, businesses and neighbourhoods in order to make better use of their immediate surroundings”.

: Quality of a place

David Halpern (Director of the Cabinet Offi ce Behavioural Insight Unit) once said that, “architecture and planning does not have an empirical, evidence-based tradition in the sense that… sciences would understand.” He’s right. There is no generally accepted ‘measure’ of the quality of a place. Indeed many planners and architects argue that quality is purely subjective. This is incorrect. While preferences may be subjective at the individual level correlations between urban form with outcomes are objective at the city level.

Create Street tool links the available data on urban form, heritage, connectivity and other data-points with analysis of where people are more likely to be happy and healthy. This will permit planners, development control offi cials, developers and member of the public, for the fi rst time to measure what the quality and potential of an individual place or street is. They are calling it StreetScore. Additionally, it should be able to permit users to measure what impact diff erent interventions (more street trees, less traffi c, changes to building facades etc.) would have to ‘Street
Score’ and to adjust the underlying ‘weighting’ as they desire.

: Understandable data

The existing planning data is very fragmented and in majority hardly understood. Linknode is working to solve this problem by developing a tool to make complex information about development proposals more accessible, relevant and understandable. In the modern world, accessible means mobile, device-centric,
and personalised of data for on-demand information.

Accessibility also means being “location aware”. In a desktop environment, a search engine can return results based on keywords, profi ling and history, but search in a mobile context has the ability to enrich result with environmental context. For example, a search for the term “coff ee shop” on a mobile device should return information about coff ee shops in my immediate vicinity, not only a Wikipedia article about this history of coff ee shops.

In order to make complex data about development proposals relevant and accessible, we need to provide contextual understanding. With this in mind, Linknode is creating a tool that enables users to visualize proposals in three-dimensional mixed-reality environment, providing real-time integration with BIM and 3D data on-screen. The benefit of seeing a development in context and in scale is to decrease fear, misunderstanding and doubt while increasing engagement with the planning process and building more ownership with stronger communities.

: Green cadastre = potential for mapping green

Gronby is a tool that applies satellite image recognition and machine learning to identify opportunities for green infrastructure.

The Smart City agenda aims to use technology to rewire the urban realm. The main intention behind this is to enable us to make smarter decisions by creating value from large data systems (aka ‘big data’). For the environment, this means providing
potential solutions to ineffi ciencies, energy and water.

Although green infrastructure is often associated with parks, green spaces and river corridors in cities, buildings with vegetation are an increasingly important element within planning. In London, green roofs and walls are, in fact, fl ourishing. Livingroofs.
org and the Green Infrastructure Consultancy have mapped the total area for the Greater London Authority. While London is not seen as a green infrastructure global player, it is. Currently, outside of the German-speaking countries (with a long history
of green roofs and walls), London is, in fact, among the Top 10 world cities for area of green roofs installed per citizen.

Many neighbourhoods in London have been mapped to show existing roofs that can be greened immediately. This has been done through the Green infrastructure audits funded by the Greater London Authority. Green roofs and walls are known to provide benefi ts. However, if the benefi ts can be constantly monitored and can refl ect signifi
cantly to the building owners and the local community, we can really make the case for greener cities. Monitoring and mapping existing green infrastructures on buildings should be part of the Smart City agenda. Additionally, mapping areas of deficiency
in and potential for green buildings will help planners, facility managers, estate managers and the construction industry to come together to upscale the amount of green infrastructure in cities. Real time data can help inform:

• Energy savings
• Storage of water
• Air pollution absorbed
• Biodiversity delivered

: Smart management of land use

No doubt, planning is a complex social process. In part, planning’s important role is in ordering the myriad of investments that various actors make in cities at any one time. By nature, what was planned inevitably diff ers from what actually occurs in the real
world. For example, constraints and delays appear, forcing development schedules to adapt during construction of housing units. Thus, planners face the challenge to stay on top of changes to the supply of housing so to steer future developments. Robust
evidence on land supply
can help to ensure that new proposals work well with local aspirations.

After workshops with British local authorities and developers on how land supply is tracked and monitored, the following issues stood out. Firstly, evidence on housing supply is hard to assemble in a timely manner. Few local authorities have real-time processes with regular updates to land supply data based on monitoring of construction on individual sites. In Manchester, about half of the 10 local authorities lack a ‘live process’; about a third of local authorities report gross completions per each site only. Furthermore, replication of tasks across departmental boundaries
results in frequent re-keying and much mundane data work. Excel and Access are the tools of choice but no particularly suited for real-time monitoring. Also, data schemas (the ways of organising and categorising site information) substantially diff er between local authorities making data harder to compare, etc.

PlaceChangers is now working towards a publicly-accessible service that gives planners, developers, and residents the opportunity to contribute to the monitoring of construction outcomes. While most funds go into the vetting of planning applications, the detailed monitoring of construction outcomes is of lesser prominence. This draws attention to the substantial benefi ts planning might gain from raised transparency in how development outcomes are tracked over time. By carefully exposing development sites that require verifi cation of construction progress, the OurLand project aims to test how to alleviate planners’ workloads by means of a clever scheduling service that also collates responses for review by the planner. Through such a system, councils should be able to plan forward rather than chasing their tail.

For local planners, the immediate benefi t of re-entering information into a new template may be hard to see, but it will have a big impact on how they assess land in the future. Not only will it help shift everyone towards a geospatial view of brownfi eld sites,providing a national and comparable map of development land, but it will also create a market for innovative SMEs and tech companies. These young, high growth businesses can use the data as the basis to design new tools, services and analytics which could be rolled out to multiple local authorities and scaled across the market.

: Care about your neighbourhood – connecting people

One of the most relevant issue in this global travelling world is having relation to a place. To know the place, the people and sharing potentials for improvement.

HACT/OCSI are developing a ‘Neighbourhood Insight’ web-tool that will combine and map open-data from government and other sources to local neighbourhood planning boundaries. Data is not an end in itself. It needs to be relevant to decision
making, robust, and up-to-date – something that is surprisingly diffi cult to achieve in planning at the moment.

When citizens engaged in their surrounding built environment come together, they can form a ( As they discuss what they like and dislike about their area and note the common themes, they are in eff ect, creating data. Such a collection of data on „a single map“ can enhance networking and fi nd common interests as well as common problems to solve. Rich data sets help to evaluate a particular place and HACT/OCSI provide 700+ more indicators for planners to choose from, something they’re also keen to explore as part of the development.

Source: Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets, Abigail Brownlee of Linknode Ltd., Sebastian Weise of PlaceChangers, Heather Hodgins of The Behaviouralist, David King of the Housing Association’s Chartible Trust (HACT) and Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) and City Standards Coordinator Matt Wood-Hill

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