Sustainability should be a key focus when introducing the Smart City concept to an existing conurbation within the African context. Alison Groves, Regional Director, WSP, Building Services, Africa, explains how and why sustainability can shape the future.
When looking to introduce the Smart City concept to an existing conurbation within the African context – from a planning, designing and infrastructure building point of view – we need to be conscious that even in our existing cities and urban centres there are challenges to maintaining the capacity of existing infrastructure networks.
These nodes still boast long-term infrastructure planning, which includes introducing smart technologies into their city scape that will make these cities more connected, innovative and nimble in the face of future disruption. Therefore, to support continued and future growth – of populations, industries and economies – long-term planning must be approached with a vision to compensate for both current and future priorities of the development cycle – and everything in between. The ideal is to build cities and spaces that are liveable, resilient to disruptions and futureproofed. And building for sustainability is the way to get there.
Sustainability is a lens through which the planning, project delivery and development processes focus to achieve the needs of the communities today without sacrificing capacity for future generations. A sustainability lens always includes balancing priorities across several areas, including the economy, community needs, environmental quality but also equity, health and wellbeing, energy, water and material resources, transportation and mobility needs – as well as how all of this can be supported by the adoption and integration of the latest in digital technologies.
City planners therefore need to scope their vision and planned projects beyond just the (immediate) key economic factors and in their infrastructure planning start to build with a sense of ‘societal resilience’ in mind and resilience that can withstand socioeconomic and climatic changes well into the future. It is this resilience that will build economies – particularly in a conurbation environment.
As we enter an age when humanity’s impacts become dominant in shaping our world – cities provide the biggest opportunity to enhance people’s lives – and the biggest challenge.
Cities are the canvas on which much of our collective futures will be drawn. How cities are planned, designed, serviced, governed and financed is material to our happiness and prosperity and the health of our society – and the natural systems on which all life depends.
Urbanisation, demographic shift, environmental changes and new technologies are reshaping the way city leaders are looking at sustainability as well as how they deliver on public services to address these new dynamics. However, currently, in the local context, most attention is focused on the comparison of cities today – how developed, evolved and competitive or resilient they are. Where we need to turn our lens to the future and explore how our cities are identifying and responding to the challenges they will face in the future too.
We need to consider how city planning is preparing for a future shaped by the major urban transitions of our day including urbanisation; density and growth; digital disruption; emerging mobility; evolving utilities models and a changing climate. The rise of Smart Cities is the response to these challenges, as Smart Cities innately offer more solutions to address many previous and persisting economic and social inequalities by bridging societal divides.
Resilience and liveability must therefore be the desired outcomes sought through planning and design processes. Achieving these outcomes will require respecting and balancing local environmental, social, economic and climate risk priorities through a robust planning and data-driven design process. And ultimately the goal should be that we are building liveable spaces that are people-centric, integrated, connected, smart, nimble and resilient – where societies can thrive, well into the future.Click below to share this article