Urban Planning and Climate Change Mitigation: Using Virtual Reality to Support the Design of a University Master Plan Extension

Urban Planning and Climate Change Mitigation: Using Virtual Reality to Support the Design of a University Master Plan Extension

Amar Bennadji (Robert Gordon University, UK), Richard Laing (The Robert Gordon University, UK) and David Gray (Robert Gordon University, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8150-7.ch010


The aim of the research described in this chapter is to explore the use of intelligent virtual transport modelling within the context of a case study involving the development of a university estate. Through the application of visualisation techniques, the study was able to explore how such techniques can lead to enlightenment of potential solutions, whilst simultaneously demonstrating the effects of design solutions on CO2 emissions. Such an approach leads to a better understanding of the transport complexity from the perspective of potential clients and users. Although images and physical models of the case study were appreciated by stakeholders, these did not provide more information than their current state and could not help in making funded decision by decision making community. Animated data, including calculated predictions of the effect of design on daily vehicles, human traffic, and CO2 emission, enlivened and illuminated the designed situation, and allowed decision makers to appreciate the real current and potential challenges.
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The research described in this chapter has implications for the study of sustainable urban transportation from a number of perspectives. Firstly, and most obviously, the work deals with the situation faced by many organisations as they attempt to relocate a workforce to a new facility.

This means that the type of research undertaken here can offer pointers, certainly, for urban design, but the work must also surely have further far-reaching implications for the travel behaviour and preferences of groups and individuals. In the case of the study site reported, the organisation has made efforts to introduce a sustainable transport strategy, yet this requires both potential benefits to the user (e.g. convenience, reduced CO2, price, cycling facilities) as well as perhaps less positive implications for others (e.g. charging for car parking, and other such disincentives).

Through actions of the EU and its constituent countries, towns and cities across Europe are beginning to address the challenges posed by climate change. The complexity of urban areas means that particular challenges are posed by the needs of residents including energy use in buildings, management of resources and transportation. Whilst it is certainly true that many of the challenges could be met through behavioural change on the part of individuals, it is also true that an integrated approach to planning is required to ensure that individuals are suitably empowered and able to act. The EU has instigated a range of mechanisms through which change can be planned, facilitated and implemented, including the relatively recent development of the Smart Cities programme (http://eu-smartcities.eu/). Such programmes recognise that technology must be introduced in such a way that it helps to support change, but cannot be regarded as a solution in itself. Within a context of participatory design, the starting point for this research was that urban development will continue to have a significant effect on the carbon footprint of cities, but that a potentially significant part of that impact (i.e. mass transportation) can be mitigated through visualisation of options in a manner which encourages engagement, and refinement of designs.

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