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Home > OPPORTUNTIES > Examples

Modelling healthy cities

February 22, 2017

This is a example transferred from the report on the blog of Future Earth

A new tool is helping to visualize the effects of infrastructure planning for sustainable urbanisation.


Imagine a computer game in which you are an urban planner, siting new developments, plotting transport links, keeping track of energy and water use and waste cycling: balancing material production with environmental capacity and quality of life. Perhaps it looks a little like the popular Sim City, launched in the early days of personal computing and now in its fifth incarnation. This one is much more powerful, though. More important, all the data is tuned to the city you live in, whose possible futures you can see unfold as you play.

This, or something like it, is part of the vision of Peter Head, who left engineering company Arup a few years ago to found the Ecological Sequestration Trust. They are now well advanced on building an interactive systems model which could make the connections in planning infrastructure that have previously been hard to see. The model is set to be tried soon in demonstration sites on several continents. If it is adopted more widely, in a world where urbanisation is proceeding apace, the results could be far-reaching.

The project rests on two plausible claims. The first is that global problems and global change must be addressed at the level of actual projects. Head is committed to the transformation in energy, economy and infrastructure that Future Earth also intends to explore. But it is not possible to plan that at a global, or even national scale, he believes: “Doing this at a regional scale is the only way we’re actually going to deliver”.

The second claim rests on the transformation we are already seeing – in availability of data, and the computing power to use it. That began with satellite borne instruments for global observation, our modern macroscopes, but is now complemented by the billions of sensors that adorn our life on the surface. Together, they mean we can now build, “the world’s first comprehensive fully integrated resource and economics systems model for urban planners”, according to the project publicity.


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