Dawn of a ‘smart’ era: how the vast quantities of data we produce is set to revolutionise the way we design and build our cities.
With the dawn of a ‘smart’ era the world is undergoing a transformation not seen since the industrial revolution. As more and more of us take to twitter, use the internet to influence governance or map our daily activities, policy makers and businesses are waking up to the fact that data generated by this virtual activity not only allows greater engagement with individuals and communities, it is also providing opportunities to shape our physical environment.
As the virtual and real world increasingly merge together, providing snapshots into our hectic lives, we ask: how can this vast reservoir of information be used in architectural and urban design today, and what does it mean for the future of cities? RIBA and Arup present a world first report ‘Designing with Data: shaping our future cities’ in which we show how data on how people use cities and their services could revolutionise the way in which we also design and plan our built environment.
Better data and the volume and speed with which it is now becoming available, affords new possibilities to understand people and places more deeply to inform design and how it is delivered. By bringing big data together with planning and design we have the power to transform cities into places that are more responsive to the public’s needs and aspirations while also strengthening social capital and engendering digital inclusion.
Through a series of case studies from around the world and insights from key experts, the report offers practitioners four main approaches to working with data and new technology to harness the wealth of opportunity big data presents
Making it happen
The report provides a starting point to smart architecture and planning, but there is further work to be done to roll this approach out. We begin with three recommendations to the UK Government to take place making into the digital age, and to extend the economic, social and environmental benefits of big data to the spatial disciplines of planning and design:
Recommendation 1: Better coordination between government departments to realise a smart future.
The opportunities made possible through more and better data are starting to be realised by the UK government. But government departments need to talk to each other to ensure that they collect, share, and analyse data that is not only relevant to operational city management but also to their design and development, and other important urban aspects.
Recommendation 2: Facilitate the digitisation of the planning process
As part of its Open Data initiative the government should model and explore the potential benefits of a digital planning process. Government should scope how it can standardise the digitisation of all information submitted for planning, and of standardising design data collection across local authorities. This public data should be open to unleash economic growth; and local authorities should be encouraged to use open data to inform local planning strategies.
Recommendation 3: The UK government should commit to work with professionals to incorporate and develop smart design data specific to the built environment
To oversee the digitisation of planning government needs to work closely with the built environment industry. The Department for Communities and Local Government and Cabinet Office, along with organisations such as the Open Data Institute and the Future Cities Catapult, should jointly set up a working group with built environment professionals and academics. This group should work towards enabling built environment data collection and enhancing its analysis through developing toolkits that will help practitioners create and manage the types of places people will want to live in and thrive.