With over half the world’s population living in cities and projections showing that by the year 2045 more than 6 billion people will stay in urban areas, city planning and development trends focus on the creation of sustainable urban areas.

City planning and development in South Africa now focus on the design of urban spaces that will support a higher quality of living for the residents. In order to ensure such developments, the professionals who are tasked with city planning engage in research to identify demographic trends.

Below we briefly look at some of the urban trends that influence city planning and development in South Africa.

Sustainable Buildings

A growing awareness of the need to reduce the human development footprint on the environment also leads to a changing focus on city planning to adapt regulations for buildings. The focus is on the responsible use of natural resources with initiatives such as the incorporation of features to conserve water. Many office parks now include rainwater catchment and recycling features. City planners also consider climate change and, with such in mind, create more green spaces.

Mixed-Income Housing

Many developments have taken place over the past few years in the cities of South Africa, where areas closer to the business hubs have been developed specifically to cater to the housing needs of the more affluent. With such, especially in places like Cape Town, the lower income groups have been pushed out, making it even more difficult for them to find affordable rental spaces. In addition, they must travel far to get to their places of work. We now see some changes in this respect with the creation of mixed income and mixed-use areas.

In these areas, housing for different income groups is developed within close proximity to schools, entertainment, offices, and light industrial operations in special nodes. An example in Pretoria is the greater Silver Lakes node, where the very rich to middle-income earners share the same node. Shopping centres, vehicle repair centres, wholesalers, entertainment, farmer’s markets, and offices are found in the same node. In KwaZulu-Natal is Cornubia near Durban where industrial spaces are closely placed to retail centres, office parks, schools, places of worship, and housing for people of different income levels.

Demographic Changes

The South African population landscape has changed considerably since 1994. With an influx of people from African and Asian countries since 1994 and emigration of a large segment of the native population, South Africa has gained a global citizen character. City planning and development specialists take note of the demographic shifts and plan accordingly. In addition, provision is made for an increase in life expectancy with designs keeping the housing needs of senior citizens in mind. More and more senior citizen or retirement villages are developed. Affordability of such housing, however, is still a contentious issue.

Higher Density

One of the biggest challenges in city planning and development is that of urban sprawl. Urban sprawl leads to more pressure on the surrounding environment. Informal settlements forming on the outskirts of cities should be addressed through proper planning to create adequate housing that caters to the growth of the population. With an increase in the urban populations of South Africa, modern city planning focuses on the creation of positive city dynamics with initiatives such as efficient and cost-effective public transport and buildings. Large and overwhelming structures make place for buildings of various heights. Provision is made for higher densities with changes in zoning to allow for more residences on smaller parcels of land.

Provision for Transport and Walkability

With traffic congestion being a major problem in cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, city planning and development professionals also look at ways to reduce inner-city traffic. Such initiatives include the promotion of walkability. Neighbourhoods develop faster in areas where people are close to their places of work, places of worship, public services, education, sport and leisure. Dedicated walk and cycle paths, in addition to designated spaces for such, must be developed. Mass transit services are introduced to connect such villages or neighbourhoods with other parts of the city, thereby reducing the need to use passenger vehicles to get to and from other parts of the city.

The above are but a few of the prominent trends in modern city planning and development. Many other trends and factors must be taken into consideration to create sustainable future work and living spaces in South Africa.

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