Real-time digital versions of our cities will transform how UK builds

Imagine a world where anyone with a connected device was able to access real-time online digital 3D versions of their own towns and cities up and down the UK. No, its not the next Sim City game – though it may be just as stimulating for architects, planners and just about anyone who is interested in how their neighbourhood is planned, developed and managed.

Utilising and standardising existing data from items like our travel cards, smartphones, supermarket loyalty cards, city planning portals, GPS traffic systems and more - coupled with realistic 3D modelling of our environment - will make a Sim City-style version of your town or city a reality in the near future.

Think of the impact this will have on all our lives:

  • The public could see, better understand and comment on what they like or dislike about proposals for their town or city.
  • They could comment on where new homes could be built or how an unused piece of wasteland might be developed.
  • The planning system could be speeded up, making planners’ time more effective.
  • It could allow architects, planners and developers to share their ideas with the widest possible audience, and users would be able to experience levels of design impossible though models and drawings
  • There could be online voting and ways to better understand community sentiment

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is exploring how to make a digital planning system a reality and has brought together key experts and innovators on smart cities to share their personal viewpoints on a digitised planning system, interrogating different ideas and perspectives from across planning, architecture, technology and sustainability. The Think Pieces, launched today, consider how current Local Authority planning processes could be modified to accommodate digital data collection and sharing, and what impact this could have.

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said:

“The opportunities for a digital platform in each city and town are exciting and give us an opportunity to do things differently. RIBA is focusing on how this can be used for planning and design to enable greater understanding and participation by communities in the design of their future. These timely Think Pieces from leaders within the smart cities movement will help stimulate debate and aid our joint goal of creating a truly digitised planning system, one which aids and improves the design and quality of our towns and cities for everyone” 

Read the think pieces from Antonio Pisano Peter Insole, Peter Stewart, Professor Sir Alan Wilson, Dr Flora Roumpani, Tim Stonor, Robert Hyde and Ulysses Sengputa here:


Notes to editors

  1. For further press information contact Howard Crosskey in the RIBA Press Office: 020 7307 3761
  2. The RIBA Think Pieces on the digital planning system can be read and downloaded here:
  3. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members. Visit  and follow us on Twitter.




Posted on Wednesday 21st May 2014