Spatial information allows us to
understand cities better and to make better decisions about them as a
result. Technologies that create, manage, analyse and represent that
information are fundamental tools supporting 21st century living
spaces. The city of tomorrow will be built upon a foundation of
sustainable processes that will generate cleaner air, water and higher
energy efficiency while delivering revolutionary transportation systems
and quantifiable numbers to prove quality living exists.
are based on having access to information that is up-to-date, relevant
to the question at hand and which embraces the nature of the phenomenon
being decided upon. Land use requires certain pieces of critical
information pertaining to existing land use, future land use planning
and models as well as the land base itself.
Transportation decisions depend upon information about population
growth, existence of travel routes and their current capacities, trends
in public demand and urban development, among other factors. Health,
security and emergency response require information about
infrastructure, need for equipment and hospital locations and travel
times. These are only a few examples of areas that depend upon spatial
information due to the nature of the services they require and deliver,
for livable cities.
SEIS, GMES and INSPIRE
The connection of data and information to governance is an important
connection for understanding how technology relates to livable spaces. “A
major challenge in Europe and globally is to organise the vast array of
already collected environmental data and information and to integrate
these, where desirable, with existing social and economic data. This
data should be made available together with tools that allow experts to
do their own analyses and to communicate their results in ways which
policy makers and the public can readily understand and use as a basis
for their own actions,” states the Shared Environmental Information System for Europe.
The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program
relates to (SEIS) because it provides the tools enabling the data to
be collected. In practice GMES aims to provide “the services will
support the implementation of public policies at European or national
level.” This in turn results in data and policies that are reflected in
the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE).
Now step back and consider these three programs. Together they
represent a primary thrust from government in Europe to capture spatial
information, integrate it and use it to improve decision making for
citizens within Europe, including cities. They do seek to involve
non-government users, but are not in principle designed for private
business. Their orientation is to enable public government to become
more efficient. It would be incorrect to assume we are all not subject
to public policy though. In addition, there are counterparts to these
agencies in other countries around the world.
Technology for the livable city
The making of a livable city is not only a government held
responsibility. Private business, NGO and a host of other organisations
can contribute to livable communities in many ways and this takes place
in many ways, shapes and forms.
In a primary way, the objective is to enhance the ability to
integrate spatial information so these agencies can communicate and
connect to do business between themselves and the government. Using
spatial information requires technologies which are open and can
interoperate between each other. Thus individual agencies connect to
each other, sharing and collaborating with different types and formats
of spatial information.
But private industry is also a creator of innovative new
technologies that can model and simulate spatial information processes,
as well as developing new technologies which enable the creation,
capture and analysis of information, particularly spatial in nature,
that can be used to understand cities and events within them. Consider Onset Computer Corporation who are developing a WiFi technology coupled to sensors for monitoring urban environments in real-time. Consider the case of CityGML which
will enable spatial information use across entire cities, but which
previously suffered from lack of interest due to having no
standardization support, which has now been changed with CityGML supported as a OGC standard – yet another example of where technology will contribute to livable cities.
The German Environment Report 2008
specifically stipulates that noise levels within urban environments are
part of the policy. Bentley sponsors a series of Building Information
Modeling (BIM) Summits that
describe how the technologies of BIM are integrated toward designing
better living spaces. Andreas Hergert presented an excellent
presentation on the ‘The Public Enterprise Sachsenforst and the Geodata Infrastructure of the Free State Saxony‘ at
the GI2008 event in Dresden. He demonstrated how deeply spatial data
infrastructure (SDI) is being applied throughout that organisation
using a combination of ESRI and Open Source tools and technologies –
all increasing services and efficiency to living in that area.
Earlier we asked in Perspectives, “What do sustainable
communities and planning have to do with CAD, GPS and GIS?” This
question opened the door to exploring the connection between cities and
geospatial technology and how they relate.
The important part in this question, I think, is in realising
geospatial technology is more than connection or location alone. We
need to articulate that what we do is making a difference to people and
how they can live. There are some real benefits in this, both tangible
Spatial tools and technologies serve people – to live better tomorrow.
Livability is the component of sustainability that recognizes the
pleasure we gain gain from our surroundings when the factors of
economy, society and environment are all considered. Underlying this
question of geospatial’s contribution to livability is the issue of
design versus management, with CAD tools traditionally used on the
design part of the livability question, and geospatial tools
traditionally involved on the management side. There’s a growing trend
of “convergence” taking place that has these two tool sets coming
together. On the one hand, you have CAD firms establishing large-scale city models with comprehensive data sets that overlap the GIS space, and on the other you have GIS companies speaking of adding design functionality.
It’s obvious that there’s a change underway that will greatly alter
how these tool sets are used, and what they each contribute to the
livability question. I think it’s valuable to take a look at the
contribution of geospatial technology as separate from design to point
out how these technologies support and enhance the design view. One
critical point in this exploration is the need for intelligent models
instead of full-scale prototypes — exploring all the benefits and
impacts of a design before changes become very costly. While the design
tools are becoming more holistic and intelligent, as in buidling
information models, the context in which a design will live is an
increasingly important consideration, and that perspective is provided
by the geospatial toolset.
GIS is the ultimate decision support environment for amassing
knowledge about a place. The layering of various site-assessment data
gives the clearest possible picture of a site, and the impact that
development will have on the surrounding environment. GIS provides a
complete catalog of the surroundings, including: environment (botany,
biology, ecosystems, etc.), transportation, community demographics,
public safety, utilities, services and accessiblity. The amassing of
these tangible elements of a community go a long way toward informing
the design process, and should always be considered with an increasing
eye toward efficiency and sustainability.
The community underpinnings that the geospatial toolset is able to
amass are enhanced with design aesthetics and the intagibles that
create a sense of place. City livability involves the careful design of
urban centers where the population congregates and recreates, including
shopping and dining, cultural facilities, green spaces, streetscapes
and the mobility of the populace in and around these gathering points.
Livability has strong effects on public health as well as population
diversity, economic vibrancy and safety and security.
There’s a growing interest in assessing livability factors in land
use planning, with the realization that these factors need to be
incorporated into public policy and planning decisions. Planning
guidelines are becoming much more concerned with the long-term vibrancy
of areas above and beyond the economic benefits of new development. The
quality of development is trumping quantity, with the understanding
that property values and community cohesiveness benefit from well
The New Urbanism and Smart Growth initiatives are both concerned
with creating mixed-use and walkable communities with access to
community elements such as shopping, dining and recreation within close
proximity of housing. Typically these developments put much less
emphasis on automobile transportation in favor of public transit and
pathways for bicycle and pedestrian use. The greater community action
within these walkable spaces fosters neighborliness and friendlier and
more pleasant surroundings.
Geospatial technology provides very valuable inputs into livability
from multiple perspectives. The assessment of workable community forms
can be cataloged in geospatial systems, and applied almost as if by
formula to help improve the livability of existing spaces or new
designs. The growing body of knowledge of designers, planners,
engineers and developers can be encapsulated in business rules and
assessment tools in order to replicate livability across broad
geographies. The geospatial toolset does a good job of informing
design, but the potential for large improvements in our urban form rely
on much broader application of these tools toward greater livability.