Advice From A Global City Expert

Did you know that 60% of the cities we will need by 2030 are not yet built? Thinking about this is both exciting and daunting (often not in equal measure). ‘Smart city’ is today’s trendy buzzword, but it is one that has various meanings depending on who you ask. Many believe that by creating smart cities we will inevitably address the challenges that our future cities face, but is this really the case? Are smart cities necessarily sustainable?Agneta Persson

With over 35 years’ experience and as WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Global Director for Future Cities,  Agneta Persson has a vested interest in the future of the world’s cities. She has had a significant hand in a number of ground-breaking projects in her home country of Sweden, including the Royal Seaport in Stockholm – a place which is expected to be fossil-fuel free by 2030 and the new Brunnshög district in Lund, which is set to be one of the most advanced scientific hubs in the world.

But if you ask Agneta about smart cities, she’ll tell you that she’s not particularly fond of the phrase.

“I prefer the term ‘wise city’ because ‘smart’ is not necessarily best. Simply adding resources to cities for the purpose of making them smart won’t always provide added value.

“A sustainable city is always smart, but a smart city is not necessarily sustainable.”

So, how can we go about assessing the value of adding resources?

“You have to start with an early multidisciplinary analysis, keeping in mind the development goals you want to achieve. Then you establish what the most important areas are; is it infrastructure, is it property? From this you find common themes, identifying where there are synergies between different disciplines and what type of resources we should try to promote as well as identifying any conflicts of interests which need to be dealt with.”

When done well this offers a possible solution to many of the challenges that our cities face; one of those being climate change, which Agneta believes to be the most pressing issue facing our global cities.

The power of the people

Speaking to Agneta about future cities, you’ll note a reoccurring theme – the importance of effective stakeholder engagement, particularly in the planning of new developments.

“It is always important to understand who the most powerful driver is and what’s in it for them so you can develop and present a solid business case when starting discussions. This way you can ensure that the work that you’re doing will provide meaningful value.

“We also need to ensure that we plan around the citizen. In our industry we tend to assume a lot about what people want and how they want it. But we need to understand their preferences, and be more proactive in talking to them.’

Such proactivity has been successfully practised in WSP I Parsons Brinckerhoff Canada where they have implemented a ‘tactical engagement’ program, as Agneta explains.

“The program allows us to analyse specific demographic groups affected by a proposed development and enables us to engage with them in a manner that is suitable and convenient for them. For instance, setting up a 7pm meeting in a council hall would not be useful if the key demographic you wanted to speak to was working mothers.

“Tactical engagement enables us to find where our key demographic is so we can meet with them to discuss their view and what’s important to them. This is an ideal situation because both parties leave the meeting better informed.’” Aside from citizens, Agneta also talks about the benefits of fostering for greater collaboration between different stakeholders including property owners, infrastructure owners, developers, architects, government, traffic planners, businesses and the academic world.

Sustainability in Sweden

Sweden is often hailed as the world leader in sustainable urban planning and design. In a country where landfill is illegal, city planners have been very resourceful, creating a system where waste can be used to produce energy.

Together with Sweden’s Green Building Council, WSP I Parsons Brinckerhoff developed an ‘integrated planning method’ for development that has been widely adopted throughout the country.

“The method is very powerful as it offers the possibility to reduce resource needs. It also assists towards identifying synergies and any possible conflicts of interest early on, avoiding future complications and associated costs.

“For instance in energy where we work a lot, the starting point is looking at the amount of energy we need, not how much we can produce.  First we start with energy efficiency in transport, and buildings, industry and infrastructure and then in the transmission and production of energy.

“We can create a circular economy with closed loops, where for instance we can make biogas, which can be used as fuel for vehicles from the organic waste. The remaining waste could then be used for incineration for electricity and heating or cooling. If we require additional energy supply, it should be produced from renewable sources; wind energy, solar, hydro power – whatever is deemed best.”

Agneta knows a thing or two about energy. She had a significant role in planning for the highly energy-efficient district of Brunnshög, Lund, chosen as the most appropriate location to house the world’s largest particular accelerator.

View the original article from The Urban Developer here.

Introducing Ms Sarah Baker

Ms Sarah Baker will be joining us at the upcoming 9th International Urban Design Conference at the Hyatt Canberra from Monday 7 November to Wednesday 9 November 2016.

Ms Baker will be presenting on the topic of Public and private benefits of competitive design processes in central Sydney.

Good design delivers a variety of public benefits. The so-called ‘design dividend’ links these benefits to positive financial uplift for property interests resulting from superior design. What happens when competitive design processes enter the picture? This presentation examines City of Sydney Council’s competitive design policy. We report a consensus in perception – as well as supporting evidence – that Sydney’s competitive design policy has generated a raft of both public and private benefits. Securing design excellence through competition emerges as an innovative regulatory approach to help ‘bridge the gap’ between public and private interests in city design and development.

Sarah Baker received her Master of Planning from UNSW Built Environment in 2014, and subsequently joined the faculty as a Research Assistant. Balancing practice and research, she also works in local government in Sydney.

Join presenters from 7 countries including Australia, China, Denmark, Hong Kong, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States this November. For more information and to secure your spot at the 9th International Urban Design Conference please visit the Conference Website.

The Wellington Story – Serendipity

Mr Gerald Blunt will be joining us at the upcoming 9th International Urban Design Conference at the Hyatt Canberra from Monday 7 November to Wednesday 9 November 2016.

Gerald Blunt works at Wellington City Council as Design Manager, City Shaper – which delivers on large city projects. Prior to this he worked at Auckland Council for 4 ½ years in the Auckland Design Office. Prior to this he was employed by Wellington City Council as an urban designer for 10 years; most recently as Chief Urban Designer. He worked extensively on the Wellington waterfront project drafting the influential Wellington Waterfront Framework. Gerald has completed a Masters degree in urban design at Oxford Brookes University, U.K. and has been awarded a fellowship of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Gerald Blunt
Gerald Blunt

Mr Blunt will be presenting at the conference, an abstract of his discussion is below:
The idea of serendipity is explored as a potential management tool for cities.  Serendipity is referenced in a series of management journals where it is proposed that it should be considered as part of business processes. In Make Serendipity Work for You in the Harvard Business Review, the following ideas are explored:

1. Serendipity is a close relative of creativity
2. Serendipity benefits not just from scarcity (forcing people to be creative) but from a degree of sloppiness, tenacity, and dissent.
3. History matters
4. Socializing matters
5. Diversity matters
6. Tinkering matters

The idea of serendipity has not commonly been considered in urban design and planning literature. The presentation will look at issues of cities and their design and planning, and explore why serendipity might work in the city context. This will be done through understanding Wellington’s sense of place, including how our whakapapa has been translated into a contemporary building.

Further lessons from three case studies; the waterfront, the Capital City initiative and the civic centre project will be reviewed and analysed to suggest how the idea of serendipity can improve innovation in City Shaping.

For more information on the 9th International Urban Design Conference please visit the Conference Website.



Mr John Hazelwood, Principal at HASSELL to Present this November.

Mr John Hazelwood, Principal and Practice Leader for Landscape Architecture at HASSELL will be joining us at the upcoming 9th International Urban Design Conference at the Hyatt Canberra from Monday 7 November to Wednesday 9 November 2016.

Jon is a Principal of HASSELL and a Practice Leader. Jon designs places for people to use, gather, be inspired and play. His passion for public spaces is apparent in his designs that show a ‘light touch’ on the landscape and fit in with the surrounding environment, historical context and the inhabitants needs through detailed exploration of program. His collaborative and energetic approach are what elevates him to the top of the landscape architecture profession. Jon takes great joy in the variety of scales our work offers, from a temporary pop up playground in Sydney’s Hyde Park, to the design of 21km of waterfront public domain along the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

Mr John Hazelwood, Principal and Practice Leader for Landscape Architecture at HASSELL
Mr John Hazelwood, Principal and Practice Leader for Landscape Architecture at HASSELL

John will be presenting at the conference on the topic of ‘The Tree and the City’

The urbanisation of China is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace. While cities like Shanghai are thriving in many respects, they are challenged by issues of health and wellbeing. These are focus of two recent HASSELL projects – a design proposal for the Huangpu River that created a continuous woodland of two million trees (a significant impact on the future liveability and sustainability of the city) and a research project undertaken with Flamingo, where we spoke with Shanghainese residents about the value of nature in the city. Together, these projects articulate a vision for our cities – places of nature, places people love.

For more information on the upcoming 9th International Urban Design Conference please visit the Conference Website.

Regenerative Development: Even Smarter

Ms Kerryn Wilmot will be joining us at the upcoming 9th International Urban Design Conference in Canberra and will be discussing ‘Regenerative Development: Even Smarter’.

Ms Kerryn Wilmot
Ms Kerryn Wilmot

Sustainability is not enough.  Holding the line in circumstances of declining resources, changing climate and growing populations will not lead to a thriving future.  We need to make our world better.
The next generation of thinking is ‘regeneration’, which takes a whole systems method to create abundance.
The presentation shows examples of a regenerative approach for the property and development industries, and how they are enabled by technology. They demonstrate different business models, mindsets and design and planning approaches.
Early adopters of regenerative tools and frameworks in Australia show that this approach leads to inspirational places.

Formerly a practicing architect specialising in sustainability, Kerryn Wilmot joined academia in 2012 at the Institute for Sustainable Futures UTS where she leads the Cities and Buildings research area.  Her applied research focuses on pushing practice and policy in the urban environment towards being regenerative.  Recent projects include investigating the impact of technology and new ways of working on the urban environment, climate adaption strategies for housing in urban heat island affected neighbourhoods, and scoping appropriate sustainability targets for redevelopment precincts and for the new Sydney Modern Gallery at the Art Gallery of NSW.
From 1999 Kerryn was the project leader for the pioneering and innovative 60L Green Building in Carlton, Victoria that influenced today’s commercial buildings and sustainable development tools. She was one of the first Green Star Accredited Professionals, she is an auditor for the Living Building Challenge, and is currently being trained as a LENSES facilitator.

For more information on the upcoming 9th International Urban Design Conference this November and to secure your spot please visit the Conference Website.