UCL Grand Challenges


Future Urban Growth Lab

A Grand Challenges Small Grant awarded for a Sustainable Cities project.

1 October 2019


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2019-20
Amount awarded: £1,000


  • Stephen Marshall, Bartlett School of Planning, The Bartlett/Built Environment
  • Niloy Mitra, Computer Science, Engineering Sciences

Society faces simultaneous demands for housing on the one hand, and the need for environmental protection and resilience on the other. Yet there is a disconnect between public’s individual choices of desired housing/real estate and the collective spatial consequences of urban growth. One reason is the difficulty of easily visualising the consequences of different urban growth scenarios. Current urban models are often vastly complex and disconnected from the simpler choices faced by the public and politicians.

The objective of this project is to operationalise an existing urban growth model prototype software, linked to urban form extending to the third dimension, and trialling it in a way that is of use to local authorities in envisaging future city growth and the consequences for urban and rural spatial patterns. 

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. 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.

The software is intended to be open-source and free to use anyone (professionals as well as citizens) interested in future urban growth.

Impacts and Outputs