The Smart Approach in Urban Design Forming Part of Strategic and Integrated Spatial Planning

The world is changing fast. Issues such as climate change, rapid urbanisation across the globe, water scarcity, shortage of housing, immigrants, and shifting populations are all factors that must be considered in strategic and integrated spatial planning.

Strategic and integrated spatial planning takes place at the upper levels of land use management planning. However, at the ground level, urban planning must be done in consideration of the broader strategic and integrated spatial planning goals on national level.

To effectively address the changing urban landscape and needs of its dwellers, it is essential to balance the various environmental, political, social, technological, and economic inputs. It cannot be done without a clear long-term vision, the financial support of private and government role players, and exceptionally strong leadership.

It has become important to adopt a smart approach regarding urban planning as part of strategic and integrated spatial planning. City planners and leaders should collaborate to ensure that best practices are followed in city planning. Part of this process entails using the technology available to put the needs of the people first.

Design plays an integral role in the improvement of cities. The increase in land invasions and protests about affordable housing closer to work in South Africa are examples of how decisions related to strategic and integrated spatial planning from the past can affect the current and future wellbeing of residents in such cities. The central parts of Cape Town, for instance, become extremely expensive to live in. The job opportunities are closer to the city centre, but housing is unaffordable. The workers have to move further away from their jobs to afford housing, but then face higher travel costs in addition to longer times on the road before they reach their homes. With such, the quality of life goes down. The above is but one example of how urban design can affect communities.

Design is not just about the visual matters related to the urban environment and spaces where people move or gather. It is also about the parts not seen by the residents. This includes cable infrastructure, wireless networks, pipes, and the likes. By adopting principles for sustainable and smart design, urban designers and leaders can use science and technology to improve the lives of residents. Wireless technology, for example, helps to connect people from their homes with their offices. In this way, more people can work from home instead of adding to traffic congestion problems.

Indeed, the development of an urban design strategy can be seen as a type of network design that must be done to include a focus on place, finance, and governance aspects.

The physical or place network consists of the public spaces, such as streets and parks, the buildings and the pipes, and the cables and everything connected together. The smart approach considers where everything is placed and how each component is connected to the bigger network.

The finance aspect entails the various vehicles for payment of costs related to the construction of the place network. It also entails the costs related to operating the urban network. To ensure that funds are available, businesses must generate revenue upon which the relevant taxes can be levied that can be used towards the strategic and integrated spatial planning and implementation thereof. Every place in the bigger picture of the country has certain mechanisms in place for generating revenue and collecting relevant taxes. It is thus essential to also consider the design of financial aspects in order to ensure the success of the place (which entails the physical network).

The final aspect of modern and smart urban design within the bigger picture of strategic and integrated spatial planning is that of governance. Governance entails the decision-making vehicles for management, and to plan and design the urban areas of the future. An important part of governance is that of the involvement of communities and consultation with decision makers.

For successful urban design of the future that incorporates smart city approaches, it is essential to focus on outcomes such as environmental sustainability, wellbeing of citizens, health, and wealth creation. Instead of reacting to problems with short-term solutions, it is essential for urban planners and relevant decision makers to focus on strategic and integrated spatial planning, thereby making it possible to reach such outcomes with urban design.