Architecture Engineering & ConstructionMay 25, 2021

An era of unprecedented challenges for cities

The following article is excerpted from Building a Better and Sustainable Life,…
Avatar Lin Miao

The following article is excerpted from Building a Better and Sustainable Life, a whitepaper developed by Dassault Systèmes

Cities are entering an unprecedented era of challenges, driven by several long-lasting trends: carbon neutral cities, demographic changes and employment polarization.

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. It is already the case in Europe. This urban acceleration generates multiple development and environmental challenges, driving a shift in responsibilities and pressure from national governments to cities, states and territories.

These challenges call for strong local governance that strikes the right balance between short and long-term priorities. Among the most critical challenges: how cities reduce their carbon footprint and consumption of natural resources. But underpinning those issues are a host of other challenges:

  • Climatic extremes from heatwaves, to wildfires to floods & hurricanes
  • Transportation & Mobility issues such as how to reduce traffic jams that directly impact air quality, how to get different mobility solutions to cohabit happily from scooters, bikes, to electric vehicles, clean public transport systems, pedestrian routes…
  • Health, safety and security issues
  • Energy efficiency in private and public buildings
  • Issues in building a circular economy

As cities strive to define and implement policies that pave the way for a more sustainable and digital future, they have to be more inclusive and citizen-centric to avoid exacerbating inequalities. No one stakeholder can find the solutions alone in a new era of unprecedented challenges for cities – driving cross-discipline, cross-ecosystem and cross-region collaboration is vital.

Zoom on crises that require agility: COVID-19, environmental disasters, emergency response

COVID-19 continues to highlight the central role of public governance in cities, states and regions in tackling a crisis. Decision-making needs to happen fast and on the ground, with close cooperation between national and local governments.

According to Simon Huffeteau, Dassault Systèmes Vice-President Construction, Cities and Territories: “In the current crisis, offering a strong healthcare system is critical for cities. Just a few months ago, saving lives was not top of policy discussions. COVID-19 changed the game and redirected public funding.”

Decision is also about action. When the St. Francis hospital in France needed to convert an area to accommodate COVID-19 patients, it also wanted to reduce the risk of virus propagation inside. Starting with a 2D floor plan, applying 3D modeling made it possible to quickly configure a virtual twin to figure out how to reassemble partitions and walls of the area concerned. Dassault Systèmes’ team of scientists and analysts then used SIMULIA computational fluid dynamics simulation applications to simulate different air flow fields within the building, enabling hospital directors to understand how the corridors were important vectors of propagation, and optimize the interior layout to minimize spread of disease.

The reality is that COVID-19, heatwaves, floods and wildfires in 2020 are driving a re-set, involving rethinking how our societies live. Hence the idea of smart cities that use advanced technologies to serve citizens and design a more sustainable and inclusive future.

Having smart cities is all the more critical during a crisis. But even as COVID-19 winds down, cities need to position themselves to adapt policies and implement the right systems to prepare for the next crisis, wherever, whenever and whatever it is.

Sustainable urban development has entered a new era, impacted by demographic & regulatory pressures, climate change and a new scale of difficult-to-predict short and long-term challenges.

Related links: 

Dassault Systèmes Construction, Cities & Territories Industry

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