A web-based urban planning tool, Envision Scenario Planner (ESP), developed by the researchers in the Next Generation Information for Better Outcomes research team is one of three finalists in the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards (2018) in the Environment and Sustainability category.
The ESP tool allows local government and other key stakeholders to make informed decisions about the types of urban regeneration proposed. It allows planners and decision-makers to assess the impact that different urban designs, building typologies, and open spaces will have on a range of environmental and social outcomes, for example, carbon emissions, water management, jobs and social amenities created.
ESP already contains a number of pre-assessed typologies for different cities of New Zealand and Australia, but the tool is easily adaptable to be used in any part of the world. Its public nature ensures free access and use by the general public helping stakeholders to rebuild smarter and empower communities in the decision-making process.
Principle Investigator Prof. Simon Kingham of the University of Canterbury says they developed the urban planning tool to initially help with the regeneration in Christchurch.
“ESP is a stakeholder-driven research project, developed with local planning authorities. The aim is to regenerate mid-suburbs, aka ‘greyfield’ areas, characterised by low-quality urban environments and demographic decline. Increasing urban density, in a well-designed way, has been shown to have a number of benefits to the environment of our cities, and to surrounding natural and rural areas. Transportation, infrastructure, and social amenities are three domains where benefits have been demonstrated in areas of medium urban density, as opposed to urban sprawl in greenfield areas, which increases these costs. In addition green space can be more efficiently maintained in more compact cities. When well planned, medium urban density results in more attractive urban areas, better public social life, which in turn also sustains better community connectedness, belonging, and safety.
“In Christchurch the project aims to address the specific needs of a post-disaster recovering city, while showing the benefits of urban intensification in the city centre and mid-suburbs. ESP supports identifying and prioritising sustainable and resilient redevelopment areas under different scenarios – raising awareness of their potential impacts and benefits supporting the balance between environmental, social and economic trade-offs.
“We are currently having conversations with councils in Nelson and Hamilton for them to use the tool too.”
With Envision Scenario Planner (ESP), users can amalgamate and subdivide land, apply land use changes and height limits, allocate residential buildings, commercial buildings, social amenities, and draw roads, footpaths and cycleways to create various redevelopment scenarios. The system integrates reporting on environmental outcomes, such as energy demand, water demand and storm water runoff, and embodied carbon and operating carbon. Additionally, the system also reports on financial aspects of the scenarios, such as construction and operating costs. The comparison of reports allows to contrast results, explore alternatives and assess trade-offs between regeneration scenarios. Such features support the research project’s contribution to sustainable and affordable residential redevelopment.
The research team that created the urban planning tool includes Simon Kingham, Dr Rita Dionisio McHugh, Dr Mirjam Schindler and Ines de Falcao.
The winners of the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards will be announced on 17 October at Te Papa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington.
For all queries, please contact Professor Simon Kingham, Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities