Designing Future-Ready Cities

The art of urban planning and sustainable infrastructure

Forest fires blaze across California, Sydney, and the eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, sea levels encroach on coastal settlements in the Ganges Delta and Florida. Floods, storms and record-breaking temperatures damage infrastructure and disrupt services.

Around the world, climate change is causing increased risks and challenges for today’s cities and smaller urban settlements. According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, sustainable urban development can help cities of the future mitigate climate change.

In other words, sustainable urban development is the key to a better future. As urban planners design towns, cities and public places, they create places that benefit humanity and the planet as a whole.

Sustainability takes priority in urban development

Through mitigation and adaptation strategies, we are seeing a slow yet steady trend of cities incorporating climate resilience strategies into urban development plans. If adhered to and managed well, new planning requirements present an opportunity to re-envision urban development and placemaking.

While sustainability proves a valuable framework for strategic urban planning goals, it is inadequate in capturing the swift transformations occurring in cities.

The latest focus includes increased implementation of green infrastructure, such as parks and green roofs that mitigate heat island effects and manage stormwater, among other utilities. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on sustainable building practices, energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Just as cities and towns impact the lives of everyone living inside their borders, they have a profound effect on the surrounding environment. Efforts to improve urban and community settings are not new, but the ways in which individuals interact with their environment are evolving.

Sustainable issues regarding rapidly expanding cities 

Populations are expanding all around the world, with the United Nations (UN) projecting that the world’s population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050. Meanwhile, today’s cities are dealing with a growing shortage of housing because local governments have not kept up with the rising demand.

In addition, the UN projects that by the year 2050, two out of every three individuals will call one of these cities their home. That estimate translates to an additional 2.5 billion people vying for space in the world’s already packed urban centers—all of whom will require reliable and sustainable shelter, transportation and amenities.

However, today’s urban infrastructure simply cannot keep up with this projected demand.

Every aspect of urban life—from water distribution to garbage collection, to transportation and communication networks— relies upon a city’s infrastructure.

Yet, that network of services and structures wears out without regular care, and when more people migrate to urban areas, infrastructure deteriorates even more quickly. Cities invest billions each year just to maintain infrastructure such as roads, bridges and tunnels, while planners exhaust themselves to replace outdated or damaged infrastructure and keep current infrastructure in working order.

Another key challenge we face is the constantly evolving nature of cities. It is crucial to acknowledge cities as living organisms and act accordingly by establishing baseline metrics and sustainability performance indicators for urban development and planning.

Still, this is extremely difficult to accomplish due to the rapid pace of change in today’s urban environments.

Read this cover page article with additional imagery in Commercial Construction & Renovation Magazine here



Steven Cornwell, Global Director – ERA-co

Steven Cornwell is the Global Director of ERA-co currently living in NYC. Prior to establishing ERA-co he was the CMO of publicly traded development company Howard Hughes Corporation and prior to this he was the CEO and Executive Creative Director of Cornwell Brand & Communications in Australia. Over the course of 20 years Steven has garnered an international reputation for developing leading brands from a broad range of sectors including real-estate, place, culture, consumer retail, media, transit & infrastructure and professional services.