Nature Based Solutions in the context of Data-Driven Urbanism

Last Week, Thomas Stellmach presented in the Annual National Planning Conference Highlights in Chengdu the presentation Nature-Based Solutions in the context of Data-Driven Urbanism invited by Isocarp. We parted from two main premises:

Climate hazards around the world during 2021

With all its effects, climate change is so familiar, from flooding, heat waves, melting polar caps caused by the man-made transformation of our surroundings. It has become the number one issue of our time. While we face this challenge, we see another big change happening, the shift towards big data and its automated analysis, affecting all realms of our life.

What does this mean for sustainable urban development?

When we think of the future of cities, popular culture portrays it either as an electronically controlled and oppressive dark urban dystopia with underground counter-culture.

Ghost in the shell (2017)

Or a naïve green utopia, where white buildings are morphed together with bits of green landscaping, with no poverty, a happy population, and everybody generally having fun or being on Prozac. Examples like Disney Tomorrowland (2019) or the proposals of architects like Vincent Callebaut.

Vincent Callebaut Masterplan

We think our real challenges are different and can be approached from real and tangible actions parting from two key questions:

  1. How can we then employ the potentials of data analysis and AI to respond to the challenges of climate change?
  2. How we can use data in planning, to foster sustainable solutions?

We propose Nature-Based Solutions in the context of Data-Driven Urbanism as a prototypical approach that mixes the biggest challenge of our time with the most relevant solution available.

The objectives?  climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as, to achieve better communication and decision-making.

The tools?  big data and analysis as well as interactive visualisation.

Heat map spatial analysis, TSPA

We are aware that spatial data is not a silver bullet but a foundation for better decision-making communication and accessibility, then, it is the Government’s role, and the Planner’s role is to integrate technology and objectives.

In short, we went from technology-driven smart cities to people-centered smart cities. Data-driven analysis and visualisation lead to better and more transparent processes, decision making, and more accessibility. What comes next is the use of data for the biggest challenge we face, Climate Change, and create the data-environment nexus in urban planning.

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