The Bartlett School of Planning


Bartlett Planning team help planners discover best locations for future urban growth

30 May 2023

UCL Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Funding (KEIF) is a scheme supporting projects that connect UCL researchers with communities beyond the university to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise.

Future Urban Growth Lab is a KEIF project that runs from May 2022 to end of April 2023. Dr. Tommaso Gabrieli (PI) and Prof. Stephen Marshall (Co-I) from the Bartlett School of Planning formed a partnership with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Dr. Luca D’Acci (Associate Professor in Urban Studies at Politecnico of Turin, Italy) with the objective to create a user-friendly software to visualize options for future urban growth.

The software is based on the Isobenefit Urbanism model of D’Acci, an optimization-based model creating morphological scenarios where all new dwellings have a location that achieves sustainable and desirable attributes of cities – including and beyond the idea of 15-minutes city. See D'Acci 2019, A new type of cities for liveable futures. Isobenefit Urbanism morphogenesis in the Journal of Environmental Management for an example. The software allows to visualize urban growth scenarios where the location of new dwellings can achieve proximity to green spaces and amenities, as well as sustainable travelling, given existing market dynamics, density and planning constraints.

Funded by KEIF, 4 post-doctoral researchers (Gareth Simons, Heeseo (Rain) Kwon, Valentina Marin Maureira, Timothy Monteath) have worked part-time for the project in different periods and contributed to the development of the software. The software is intended to be open-source and free to use anyone (professionals as well as citizens) interested in future urban growth. A project website (under development) with technical information on how to run the software can be found at https://github-pages.ucl.ac.uk/BSP-isobenefit-urbanism/.

The year of project activities culminated with a small workshop where planning officers from Greater Cambridge and New Forest Districts, as well as representatives from RTPI, participated in interactive sessions experimenting the Future Urban Growth Lab software and offering valuable feedback. The Future Urban Growth Lab project initially started in the summer of 2021 with a pilot supported by UCL Grand Challenges (Stephen Marshall and Niloy Mitra PIs, Gabrieli and D’Acci Co-Is, Voto and Simons as researchers), and has now entered in its third phase with further funding from the Bartlett Innovation Fund and new software developments on their way.