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Arcadis - creating resilient cities of the future

History has taught us that every generation faces its own global challenges. Our time is no exception. We face nothing short of an environmental crisis that presents fundamental challenges to the way we live now and will need to live in the future. As environmental specialists, designers and planners at Arcadis, our position is one of responsibility.

arcadis 43 a 1 copyCarbon in Context
As we grapple with climate and biodiversity changes, the United Nations (UN) and our governments have set targets to reduce carbon emissions, with an aim in the UK to become net zero carbon by 2050. But government targets are not enough. Whole lifecycle carbon emissions are not measured, and the effectiveness of carbon offsetting is often questionable. With a prediction that 70% of the world's population will be living in cities by 2050, global megatrends such as rapid urbanisation, digitalisation and societal expectations can be both part of the problem and the solution in reaching these targets.

To create an equitable and fair society for all, we need to rethink our approach to planning and designing development and infrastructure and, in doing so, embed positive social, environmental and economic legacy. In other words, to achieve urban resilience we need to put planet and people first, and prosperity beyond profit, where we become nature positive and create a safe and just space for humanity.

To achieve this, we need to chart a carbon conscious but holistic path for development. This requires building resilience into our places, communities and resources with a focus on a masterplanning approach that connects processes, people and investment for shared benefits.

Three Pillars of Resilient Masterplanning
A Resilient Masterplanning (RM) approach could meet the current and forecast challenges, by considering three simple pillars:

• Sustainable Design
• Viability & Delivery
• Stakeholder Engagement & Stewardship

A good example of this is the Glasgow Liveable Neighbourhoods project where a team, led by Arcadis, worked on two inner city Liveable Neighbourhoods areas to set out a vision for how they could look, and how this would bring maximum benefit for all residents. The result was the creation of accessible and people-centric communities with less car dependency, making walking, cycling and public transport the first choice to improve lives, reducing carbon footprint and creating a more equitable society.

The benefits of this approach are:
Balance for Planning Certainty: By developing these three strands together, we can shape a masterplan holistically, with design quality, community aspirations, viability, deliverability and Nature Based Solutions (NBS). In doing so we should achieve greater planning certainty over a more orthodox and often biased approach.

Adopting a Stewardship Mindset: Community and stakeholder participation, with aspects of co-design, sets a foundation for community involvement in shaping the proposals and future stewardship. Long-term stewardship opportunities and constraints should be considered early in development decision making, such that it can influence design, adoptions strategies, developer investment and funding for place keeping.

arcadis 43 b copyCircularity and Systems Thinking: Circularity is key to tackling planetary challenges. The three RM pillars promote systems thinking. An example of this is in Hammarby, a district of Stockholm in Sweden. In the early 1990s, Hammarby Sjöstad was a run-down, polluted and unsafe industrial and residential area. Now, Hammarby Sjöstad is one of Stockholm's most pleasant residential areas and one of the world's most successful urban renewal districts.

We can adapt the often linear development planning and design method sequences, such as set out in the UK's RIBA Workstages 0-7, into a circular sequence, by considering end of life renewal and repurposing. Of greatest influence to reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is the early stages of development masterplanning – RIBA Workstages 0 to 3, prior to and including planning consent. At these stages the importance of developing carbon-reducing and nature positive measures are greatest, such as mobility planning and '20-minute neighbourhoods', biophilic design such as Building with Nature, and other regenerative and healthy solutions, to support a whole life value assessment process.

Through resilient masterplanning we can face climate change adaptation and nature recovery challenges with a clear and holistic resolution, creating the sustainable, vibrant cities of the future.

Aydin Zorlutuna is a Director in Landscape, Masterplanning and Urbanism at Arcadis