The future of green cities is at hand

April 6th, 2017

Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, self-healing homes, vertical farming, smart sensors, ‘big data’ and the ‘internet of things’ – the future of sustainable cities is at hand!

Participants at the recent Green Cities Conference in Sydney (March 2017) were encouraged to ‘Fast Forward to the Future’ and to be the agents of change who drive the future of sustainable cities.

Co-hosted by the Green Building Council of Australia and the Property Council of Australia, Green Cities is Australia’s premier sustainability conference for the built environment. A team from CSIRO’s Ginninderra project attended this year’s conference to meet industry leaders and to canvas the latest thinking on liveable, sustainable and resilient cities.

A major focus of the conference was on the emerging megatrends and the rapid pace of technological change that is shaping our cities.

“The next three years of innovation will shape and define the next 100 years of urban living”, according to international futurist Chris Riddell.

Data-driven solutions will be at the heart of many of the emerging advances and efficiencies in the built environment through technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and augmented reality, according to Riddell.

“Data is the new oil. We need to find it, mine it, and refine it.”

The potential of ‘big data’ solutions to transform so many areas of city life is the reason more IT, programming and digital companies have entered what was once the domain of  engineering, manufacturing and other sectors. Google’s work on autonomous vehicles is a prime example.

The connection of a growing number of devices to smart systems or the ‘Internet of Things’ will bring profound changes to the future urban world, according to smart cities expert, Catherine Caruana-McManus. “We are moving from a world full of data to a data-driven world.”

City planners will benefit from finding new ways to take stock of their data and build it into their management of the cities of today and in planning the smarter cities of tomorrow.

Focus on ‘density done well’

The conference also focused considerable attention on the issue of density and how it can be done well for the health and benefit of the community and for sustainability outcomes.

A number of presenters spoke about the need to change the prevailing mindsets and misconceptions about density. Speakers such as Chairman of the Committee for Sydney, Michael Rose, referred to studies that show that higher density living in city centres can actually boost health and wellbeing outcomes in comparison to low-density development on the urban fringes where residents typically spend considerable time on their daily commute.

“Low-density areas sometimes force people to drive more and to be less physically active.”

It appears the facilitation of work and lifestyle opportunities in a development can make all the difference.

“Cities that manage density well, enrich the lives of their residents, according to Kylie Rampa, CEO of Property Australia, Lendlease.  “Mixed-use developments encourage activity day and night and provide the atmosphere and environment for people to live and work.”

Applications to Ginninderra

While high-density inner-city living is not applicable to CSIRO Ginninderra, the concept of a mixed-use development that encourages work, recreational and social activity and reduces off-site travel needs, most certainly is.

Having a deliberate plan and design for the right mix of housing densities and open space, among all the other social, commercial and environmental features, will be key to creating such a vibrant, healthy and sustainable community.

CSIRO is well placed to combine its knowledge and expertise across many fields of research with data-driven insights that will change the way that we live, work, invent and innovate.

Data 61 has been established to help the nation navigate the path to a data-driven future.

In addition, CSIRO Futures, the strategy and innovation advisory arm of CSIRO, is working with both industry and government to identify new opportunities for sustainable growth, drawing on analysis of long-term megatrends and CSIRO’s depth of technical expertise.

Through bringing together this understanding and expertise with that of our engineers and biophysical scientists, CSIRO Ginninderra is be well placed to be ‘future proof’,  ‘climate ready’ and sustainable.

Ginninderra is one of the key sites at which CSIRO intends to nurture innovation and collaboration through CSIRO Urban Living Labs designed to create, develop and roadtest the cities of the future.


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