RIBA heralds dawn of a ‘smart’ era that revolutionises the way we shape our cities

HeronTower537x315A new report that explores the massive potential role that data could have in the planning and design of our buildings and cities has been launched by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and ARUP. The report ‘Designing with data: Shaping our future cities’ identifies the main approaches to working with data for those involved in designing and planning cities. Better data can offer a deep insight into people’s needs and has the potential to transform the way architects and urban planners design our built environments. This could result in cheaper experimentation and testing of designs before construction begins. It also promises the chance for greater consultation with potential users – speeding up the process, saving time and money and resulting in better and more affordable design.

The report calls on UK Government to take steps to make it a requirement for the data that is already collected during the planning and design process to be easily accessible for those who may need it in the future. It’s not only the Government and Local Authorities who will benefit from analysing this big data to improve local and national policy making (as is already common is areas like health and transport), it will also free up real time and resources for designers, planners and architects. The Government has recognised that better use of data has the potential to inject £2 billion in to the UK economy in the short term and £6-7 billion further down the line – these kinds of savings will ultimately filter down for those who invest in good design and benefit our towns and cities.

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said: ‘The UK currently scores top for open data according to the Open Knowledge Foundation. Lots of the data is available and already being collected, so why aren’t more architects taking advantage? We need the Government to ensure this data is harnessed by local authorities and made available for architects, developers, residents groups, charities, and business so they can make the best use of it.

‘This report must signal an end to clunky planning application websites with their overly long reference numbers and multitude of pointless scanned documents, data collection needs to be standardised across the country, easily accessible and open to everyone. The RIBA is looking to a future where data will enable architects to unleash their creativity in ways that are currently too expensive or time consuming to create the best buildings possible.’

Léan Doody, lead consultant for smart cities, Arup, and author of the report said: ‘We have all been in situations when we are frustrated by our environment; when we are unable to park, roads are over-crowded or pavements too narrow.

“Analysis of open data provides the possibility of avoiding this, and we are already seeing some exciting government initiatives in the UK around this, including the launch of the Smart Cities Forum, the Open Data Institute (ODI) and the Future Cities Catapult. This report illustrates the positive practical and economic benefits of using open data, and in doing show demonstrates the necessity for its wider use.’

To read the full report and the main recommendations it makes to Government click here.