Developing Sustainable Cities

Urban design and urban planning are often confused and used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between urban design and town planning:

  • Urban planners plan cityscapes strategically. This includes policies, focusing on strategy and structure, building regulations, and neighborhoods.

  • Urban design focuses on creating city features based on the urban plan. This includes transportation, community amenities, infrastructure, and public spaces.

To be successful, urban design and urban planning must work together, sharing their objectives to create a sustainable city that improves the quality of life for all who live, work, and play in the urban environment.

Why urban planning is needed

Urban planning success depends on the ability to work within a budget, balancing the need for environmental protection and economic growth. It also gives guidance for how projects can be implemented and completed.

Urban planning prepares a city for the future, giving credence to short-term actions to deliver to the potential of longer-term opportunities. This enables prioritization of projects, focusing on those that provide the most impactful difference to the urban economy, and that are aligned with the vision of the urban plan.

An effective urban plan also helps to develop continuity of planning, regardless of changing political landscapes. Decision-making becomes steadier, and opportunities and threats easier to anticipate, which improves cost-effectiveness.

Urban design – How it helps to create sustainable cities

In the past, the idea of designing an urban landscape was that it be organic and natural. It is now a known fact that cities can be designed for sustainability by giving priority to resource management and connecting people to public transit.

Within the framework of the urban plan, urban design achieves many things, including:

  • Urban mobility

Urban design has many different design elements to ensure ease of urban mobility. This includes ample sidewalks to facilitate walking, traffic patterns for efficient flow, and public transit centers. These elements make it easier for people to navigate through the city while also reducing traffic congestion.

  • Integration of natural systems and the urban infrastructure

Urban design delivers integrated systems (natural systems and urban infrastructure) that are sustainable, resilient, beautiful, and functional. Urban design is about finding solutions to human-centered problems by integrating natural systems into the built environment.

  • Effective use of local resources

The physical form and appearance of the built environment are intended to enhance human interaction with nature and each other through design processes that use social, economic, environmental, and technological factors. This includes greater sustainability and utilization of space – such as community improvement projects, like green rooftops to provide food for the local community.

  • Place-making

Place-making is about creating, designing, and constructing places that are compelling to people. It’s about providing services and opportunities that meet the needs of residents and the local economy. The most successful cities in America are not defined by their size, but by their uniqueness.

  • Integrated communities

A city that provides spaces where people can meet, interact, and engage with each other provides the backdrop for greater human integration and happier communities. Such spaces include parks, sports facilities, plazas, playgrounds, etc.

  • Sustainable communities built around their people

A neighborhood is a community made up of people living in proximity with one another. The infrastructure must support residents in many ways such as creating public green spaces, bike and pedestrian-friendly streets and developing food communities.

Sustainable communities are created when people are enthusiastic about living and working in their neighborhoods for years to come.

Urban planning and urban design – working together to create sustainable cities

Urban planning and urban design are two distinct fields. But they both have a common goal – to create sustainable cities.

Urban planners and urban designers work as a team to help shape the future of cities. Working with architects, engineers, and public officials, they come up with an overall plan for the city that is economically viable and sustainable for the long term.

With the urban population forecast to continue growing, cities must be planned accordingly. They must be accessible. Urban planning and urban design must be mindful of people’s needs, as well as deliver economic growth and environmental sustainability.

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed, and created. To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.

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