The Need

Source Image: PixabayCOVID-19 Implications: Has the Pandemic Accelerated the Need For a Sustainable Urban Future?

With cities generating 70% of global greenhouse emissions [1] and considered to be critical settlements for providing opportunities for education and employment, they are also struggling to effectively manage population growth, traffic congestion, housing affordability, and air quality [2]. More importantly, in 2016, the World Health Organisation declared that “Health is one of the most effective makers of any city’s successful sustainable development” [3]. It is estimated urban populations will continue to increase from 55% of the world’s population to 68% living in cities and communities by 2050 [4].

The need to address sustainability in cities is crucial, however in order to do so, one must look upon the building blocks of what makes a city to thrive: Communities. Studies have shown, with an increase in densification of urban centers around the world, a correlation has been found leading for cities to consume up to half of the nation’s total energy [5]. More critically, densification requires spaces to live, work and foster human development through recreational activities and leisure. This brings the importance of proper building and infrastructure planning to make a community to thrive. For this reason, global indicator frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have set targets and indicators to allow progress tracking and performance of nations towards defined performance benchmarks.

When assessing the adoption of global indicators into the context of providing sustainable cities and communities, key barriers have been identified preventing its effective implementation. These are: insufficiently participatory action from stakeholders involved in its process, inadequately ambitious strategies, as well as struggling with the creation of indicator systems that consequently leads to lack of monitoring [6]. Moreover, access to reliable data; political prioritization, complexity of urban system; availability of technical capacity and skills; and indicators acting as target levels instead of acting at urban local levels [7] have amplified this challenge. The need to transfer global indicators into national context resides in addressing areas of data disaggregation and development of metrics for measurement of sustainability performance of communities. It is in the context of data gaps, that new approaches such as adoption of community data gathering from GIS, Generative Design and post-occupancy simulation from Digital Twin technologies, could provide a greater context into translating sustainability, fair distribution and efficient allocation of global indicators to plan and design better cities and communities.

With this in mind, the research question seeking to address is: What impact does Digital Twin technologies, spatial big data and community data have on the ability to set a prioritized framework for sustainability, fair distribution and efficient allocation of global indicators in order to develop sustainable, resilient and smart communities in developed economies?, and how the design of these can influence the planning without causing greater environmental load to both public & private sector organizations, governments, NGOs and policy makers?

Interested about these challenges? More on the Literature Review section

The Solution

Future Infrastructure & Built Environment Planning: Towards adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals via Progress Tracking

For reasons presented addressing the Need and given within the Literature Review, this research study focused on the premise of what expert literature recommends by promoting the prioritisation of global indicators by proposing a Sustainable & Smart Community Framework while seeking to adhere the implementation of spatial big data (for future refinement) in order to fill data gaps and the use of digital twin technologies to simulate community sustainability performance through indicator-based assessments, their bench-marking, systems analysis and multi-criteria analysis to support decision making for creating sustainable and smart local communities.

The intended contribution of this research resides in proposing a framework by relying on the progress tracking of global indicators, as well as identifying patterns and respective forecasting to promote urban and infrastructure planning for the design of sustainable, resilient, and smart communities. The set-up of these resides in its implementation on a local scale, with the intent that it can be replicated into several interconnected communities towards a better city and community planning addressing global environmental security challenges by promoting the use of digital technologies.

Source Image: Verdik