There is a range of technologies that are required to design new city spaces. Together with Oasys Ltd, providers of building design software, we investigate how urban planning relies on software.
Software used for crowd and pedestrian simulation
Crowd and pedestrian management software is used for architecture design and urban planning. It is capable of simulating thousands of people so that they can be imported into digital models of city spaces. The simulated agents can act intelligently according to set guidelines.
The technology can be adapted to meet a range of needs. For architects designing a new building or arena that has the potential to host thousands of people, this technology can be used to simulate an evacuation. The crowd can be monitored to see what collisions they come across and how well they can achieve the goal of escaping the building.
During the planning of infrastructure, software can be used to predict and plan for emergency situations. With the rise of terror incidents across Europe, the use of crowd simulation and preparing for unlikely situations is more important than ever.
Managing geographical data
To manage geographical data, a geographic information system (GIS) is often used. This gathers data from a range of sources and manipulated it accordingly.
Multilayer mapping is one form of GIS. Similar to a density map, this feature allows the user to see a range of measures on one area. For example, potential agricultural land, areas which are prone to flooding and erodible land can all be visible on one map. This allows urban planners to visualise areas that would not be suitable for building on.
This type of software is also able to provide information to planners of previous building permits. The success of potential businesses can be analysed too by measuring their proximity to potential competitors and customers.
Simulating potential impacts
Another form of technology used by urban planners is building information modelling (BIM) technology. This can simulate the impacts of proposed buildings on environments before they have been built. This technology is becoming more important in the design of ‘smart cities’, to test out the impact of the building before construction goes ahead.
When planners decide to build in an established area, it’s possible that issues can arise. However, BIM can inform system managers of a wide range of factors. For example, the software could show how deep to dig in order to not crash into a fibre optic cable.
BIM can bring together other teams who are working on the project too. For example, workers on drainage construction and landscaping can consult the same model to help better inform their decisions.
“Some of the drilling that we did for this project was within centimeters of the existing underground tunnels in London. It was absolutely incredible” says Tony Andrews, Solutions Executive of Asset Management at Bentley Systems. He is talking about when they used BIM on the Crossrail project.
What does the future hold?
Technologies and software is constantly evolving. One of these, not used for urban planning yet, is an open-source software that has been developed in New York. It is currently a system that creates a map using data to visualise how people move through cities. Heat spots on the map become more intense when areas are popular.
This innovation is able to determine how and when city spaces are used. At the moment, the data is collected from Flickr and Twitter uploads, and this is planned to expand to other social networks.
It’s possible that in future years, urban planners will be able to see which cities are busy at which times of day. It will also be possible to make comparisons between cities and replicate planning of structures if it has been successful in a city that runs in the same way.