A Unified Information Framework for Building A Common Vision in Sustainable City Development

A Unified Information Framework for Building A Common Vision in Sustainable City Development

Jialiang Yao (Thinklab, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, Salford,UK), Terrence Fernando (Thinklab, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, Salford, UK) and Ian Everall (Thinklab, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/ij3DIM.2013040104
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Creating sustainable cities requires a stronger collaboration between a range of public and private sector organisations to ensure cities are safer, healthier, intelligent and prosperous places for citizens to experience an enhanced quality of life. Within this context, urban planning and regeneration projects play a major role where stakeholders need to come together to assess the current challenges or the opportunities within a city and implement projects that transform the physical, social and environmental dimensions to create prosperous and sustainable futures. Within these projects, stakeholders need to assess “social data intelligence” collected by individual agencies and also understand how proposed complex agendas such as transport, health, education and employment could lead to a better environment that can bring social, economical and environmental prosperity. This research proposes a novel Urban Information Framework that allows the stakeholders to integrate their datasets (both spatial and non-spatial) together to create a unified 3D virtual prototype of a city that can be used to represent both the current state of a city as well as intended futures. The proposed Urban Information Framework allows the stakeholders to combine different datasets together, whether they be social or physical transformation agendas, to understand the dependencies or to build up narratives that could be communicated visually to others. The overall framework has been developed and validated by working closely with two major regeneration projects in UK.
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1. Introduction And Background

The challenges of economic pressures, resource depletion, population growth, demographic change, CO2 emission targets and urbanisation mean that the world’s great cities need to adapt to survive and thrive over the coming decades, while ensuring long term economical, social and environmental sustainability. As a result, there is a trend towards forming stronger local partnerships that brings the key stakeholders together to address the challenges of creating sustainable cities (Department of Communities & Local Government, 2011; HM Government, 2011; Local Government Improvement & Development). Typical stakeholders that come together in implementing such sustainable agendas are local councils, police, environment agencies, health delivery organisations, educational establishments, housing associations, transport authorities, community groups etc. These partners need to work together to assess the performance of an area from their own view point and as a whole and to implement measures that can lead to a better environment that can bring social, economical and environmental prosperity.

As a result, collaboration among the key stakeholders in a city has become more important than ever before. As indicated in (Brand and Gaffikin, 2007; Hudson-Smith and Evans, 2001), collaboration plays an important role in making informed decisions in the urban regeneration process. While each group represents their own interest or the interest of an organisation, they need to work together to understand common challenges faced by a city or a local area as well as the inter-dependencies between proposed agendas (i.e. transport, housing, health, education etc.) with the view to identifying and resolving conflicts, and implementing joined up approaches where appropriate. Although the benefits of collaboration is well understood by many stakeholders (Al-Kodmany, 2001; Susskind, 2009), the implementation of such collaboration is challenging since there is no common technology platforms, collaboration processes and organisational structures in place for them to work as a virtual enterprise deploying advanced virtual prototyping technology that is common in other industries such as the aerospace and the automotive sectors.

Advances in VR technology have made it possible for planners to model urban environments in three-dimensional virtual space and use it as a tool for communicating proposed ideas to relevant stakeholders. In past years, many urban visualisation models have been developed. For example, Chan et al. (1998) presented an urban simulation system which combined 3D visualisation, GIS and database technology to establish a 3D urban simulation environment. Numerous groups have created over thousands of virtual models to represent various cities, such as SpacEyes3D(SpacEyes) and Virtual Berlin (2010). However, most of these city modelling platforms have put emphasis on visual realism and lack the ability to support the collaboration process between range of stakeholders who need to bring various social, physical, economical and environmental data sets to explore a broader regeneration agenda and build consensus in regenerating an area. As suggested by Pietsch (Pietsch et al., 2001), impressive “realistic” rendering is not enough for scenario simulation which is essential for collaborative urban planning and design.

This research presents an information modelling framework that can be used to construct an interactive virtual prototype of urban spaces that combines both social and physical data. It allows stakeholders to visually communicate the social and physical challenges of an urban space and engage in a meaningful discussion, based on evidence, towards developing sustainable environments. This framework was developed and validated by working closely with two live projects in the United Kingdom, involving a range of stakeholders, over the last five years.

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