How to design a city in five easy steps: exploring... design decision-making

How to design a city in five easy steps: exploring VivaCity2020’s process and tools for urban
design decision-making
Prof. Rachel Cooper, Dr Christopher Boyko
Lancaster University, UK
Urban designers and planners are increasingly being asked to create and maintain communities that are
more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Governmental and non-governmental organisations, such as the Department for Communities and Local Government (formerly Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister), the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (formerly comprised of
portfolios from the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, have published numerous reports and policy documents outlining
the relationship between sustainability and urban design. ese reports and documents provide information and practical and aspirational guidance about the value of good design and the delivery of sustainable
communities. To achieve the high expectations set out by Government and affiliated organisations, some
decision-makers have been exploring how buildings and open spaces ‘come to be’, that is, how they develop
from an idea to finished project and beyond. Knowing who is making decisions, what tools they are using
to make decisions and whether or not they are considering sustainability can help those involved in the
process of urban design to understand the complexities and tradeoffs surrounding when and how to incorporate sustainability into projects. is paper begins by discussing our current state of understanding
about the urban design process as reviewed in the relevant literature. To do this, the fields of architecture,
business, design, engineering, manufacturing and planning were surveyed to understand how processes
are depicted, how they function and what similarities and differences exist between those processes and a
plausible process for urban design. Research conducted as part of the VivaCity2020 project is presented
next, highlighting case studies from three major UK cities–London, Manchester and Sheffield–and what
we have learned from understanding the urban design process in-practice. e above processes are then
compared, illustrating that sustainability and the tools used to make decisions are not often consistently
considered by decision-makers in the process. To this end, a revised urban design process was created
and validated by experts in design, planning, regeneration and sustainability that attempts to consider sustainability at each stage of the process. Along with the process is a suite of tools, developed during the
VivaCity2020 project, that can be used when making decisions about a broad range of sustainability issues,
including mixed-use, land-use diversity, environmental quality, housing choices, and public conveniences.
A series of tools and the process, consisting of five stages, tasks and reviews, will be explained, all of which
decision-makers can utilise and follow to create more sustainable urban design projects.
Keywords: decision support, design process, tools, urban design, urban sustainability
Conventional wisdom states that nothing worth doing comes easy. is is true for many
things, including designing cities. A raft of guidance from Government and nongovernmental organisations tells us what we should do to create sustainable communities.
Local authority planners attempt to enact this guidance while wrestling with the everyday
realities of people and places in their area. Private sector decision-makers—architects,
developers, landowners, investors—have their own bottom lines to worry about (e.g.,
making money, acquiring sites for development, designing great buildings and spaces).
Residents want neighbourhoods that they like, feel attached to and are safe for their
families. In short, the process for designing places is complex and fraught with endless
tradeoffs and negotiations between the multitude of stakeholders over the short-,
medium- and long-term.
Does this mean, then, that cities cannot be designed in five easy steps? Probably not, but
knowing more about this process—what are the stages and actions involved in designing
cities, who makes decisions, what tools are used to make decisions and what issues are
discussed—can help to shed light on the complexity of designing cities and, in particular,
more sustainable urban design projects within these cities. e EPSRC SUE project,
VivaCity2020, explored the process for urban design projects in the wider context of
sustainability over 5 years, conducting an extensive literature review and case studies in
London, Sheffield and Manchester. e result was a baseline process taken from the
literature, three case study processes of urban design decision-making in-practice and a
revised generic process that incorporated valuable information and lessons learned from
the baseline and case study processes (i.e., sustainability and decision-making tools were
not applied consistently throughout the lifetime of urban design projects). is paper
briefly reviews the urban design literature and outlines the baseline process. Case studies
are discussed next, followed by a presentation of the revised urban design process with
tools that decision-makers can use to make more sustainable urban design decisions.
Urban Design and the Urban Design Process
Urban design is a multidimensional concept that highlights the transformative nature of
urban environments (Barnett, 1982; Gosling, 2000; Rowley, 1994). Such transformation is
perceived mostly in physical terms (e.g., re-positioning roads, pavements and open spaces
to make a neighbourhood more legible); however, people have an important role to play in
urban design. rough their evolving aesthetic, emotional, functional, psychological and
social wants and needs, people act as drivers for urban design, shaping how urban
environments look, feel and are used. e design of urban environments also has the
capacity to shape how people behave, feel and think in such spaces. us, urban design is
about transformation as well as reacting to, ongoing interaction with and being influenced
by the urban environment.
From this, a definition of urban design is presented: urban design refers to the dynamic
art and process of designing, creating, making and managing spaces and places for people
(adapted from CABE & DETR, 2000; Rowley, 1994; emphasis added). e notions of
urban design as both a dynamic art and a process are key to this definition.
‘Dynamic art’ stresses creativity as well as context. While urban design may be comprised
of a relatively generic set of principles, people, such as architects and artists, may reinterpret these principles into innovative ideas that best suit the context in which they are
working (see Rogers & Power, 2000, for a description of context). Increasingly, the
community is becoming more involved in shaping the urban design of an area, in line with
the UK Government’s remit for creating more sustainable communities (CLG, 2006;
ODPM, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2006).
‘Process’ stresses the following of a method, procedure or series of actions that lead to the
accomplishment of a result (Atkin, Borgbrant, & Josephson, 2003; OED, 2005). is
method, procedure or series of actions is often complex, iterative and non-linear (Rowley,
1994), involving many different people and issues throughout the lifetime of an urban
design project. Illustrating a generic, conceptual guide adds value to the individual parts
and people in the process; thus, the resulting whole becomes greater than the sum of its
parts (Carmona & Tiesdell, 2007).
A generic process for urban design allows the ‘dynamic art’ to be articulated. Such a
process can demonstrate potential creativity in urban design projects by giving decisionmakers the opportunity to be innovative amidst a multitude of constraints (e.g., site,
financial). A generic process also is capable of incorporating context-specific issues into
the set of specific stages and actions that decision-makers can follow.
A review of the relevant literature highlighted that a precise process for urban design did
not exist. us, a generic process was created from an amalgamation of existing design
processes to begin to understand the complexity of urban design decision-making. Inpractice urban design processes could then be compared to the generic process to
understand whether the conceptual model fits with what occurs in the ‘real world’.
From a consultation of design processes in architecture (RIBA, 1999), business (Smith &
Jackson, 2000), manufacturing, construction, engineering (Austin et al., 2001; Cooper et
al., 2005; Woodhead, 2000), non-governmental organisations (English Partnerships, 2000;
Heritage Lottery Fund, 2000), planning (Bressi, 1995; Nelessen, 1994; Okubo, 2000;
Roberts, 2003; Wates, 1996, 1998) and ‘urban design’ (Biddulph, 1997; Canadian Institute
of Planners, 2000; Rowland, 1995; see also Macmillan et al., 2002), the following generic
process was created with four stages and four transition stages:
Stage 1: “Creating teams, appraising the situation and forming goals.” is is when
decision-makers begin thinking about an urban design project. During this stage, teams
are formed, the project site and its context are assessed through a variety of ways (e.g., site
survey, valuation of surrounding sites), project objectives are written, stakeholders are
identified of the project, funding is sought and timescales are drafted.
Stage 2: “Designing and developing.” Here, decision-makers are designing different
options for the project. is action will be based on a design brief developed by the team
as well as an evaluation and testing of ideas in the brief and, ideally, stakeholder feedback.
Stage 3: “Evaluating, selecting and creating a plan.” e urban design options are assessed
in light of the objectives in Stage 1 and decision-makers will chose an option. is option
will be evaluated further, stakeholders will be consulted on the option and a plan including
timescale will be devised.
Stage 4: “Implementing, monitoring and following up.” e decision-makers implement
their selected option via the construction process. Once built, the urban design project
will be monitored and a group (e.g., management company) will be set up to manage the
In between the stage are transition stages—“Continuing to understand the context”,
“Continuing to think about alternatives”, “Re-creating a plan” and “Continuing the
process”—that act as “soft gates” for decision-makers to re-evaluate their past actions and
plan for the next stage (Kagioglou et al., 1998). e transition stages also support the idea
that the process is iterative, as decision-makers may use the transition stages to amend
actions from a previous stage before moving on to the next stage.
e next section highlights three case studies, undertaken for the VivaCity2020 project.
e case studies represent ‘real world’ examples of urban design processes from different
urban design projects in the United Kingdom.
Urban Design Process Case Studies
Urban design projects within London, Sheffield and Manchester were chosen because of
their scale and type of development. A small- (i.e., urban block), medium- (i.e., city centre
neighbourhood) and large-scale (i.e., area comprising seven neighbourhood boroughs)
development was selected, each with different objectives: infill, repair and recovery and
regeneration, respectively. e processes also covered different timescales because each
project had a different starting and ending point.
Scale of development
Type of Process timescale
Clerkenwell, London Urban block
In9ill, mixed‐use, 10 years
(Brewhouse Yard)
contemporary and listed buildings
Shef9ield city centre Neighbourhood/quarter Repair and recovery, 25 years
(Devonshire Quarter)
mixed‐use (leisure, of9ice, residential, retail)
Manchester/Salford 7,200 hectares, seven Urban regeneration 3 years
(Central Salford)
Urban design processes were mapped for each project, based on the gathering of multiple
sources of information (e.g. archival materials, interviews, questionnaires, observations)
from a range of decision-makers and stakeholders (e.g., academics, architects, developers,
government, residents). Each process told a story about urban design decisions and who
made those decisions; tools used in decision-making; who the stakeholders were, and;
what were the major issues involved in the urban development site, including
Case Study Findings
Each of the processes was mapped using timescales to illustrate discrete stages and
actions or decision points (see Figures 1, 2 and 3). Researchers chose to use timescales
because this method of understanding decisions had been utilised in previous research
(see Cooper et al., 2005). Moreover, timescales permitted researchers the ability to follow
the progress on an urban design project, from its early stages to its completion and
beyond or, as seen in the Manchester case study, up to its current day status. Knowing
chronologically what happened enabled a story to be told and helped to better identify
decision points as and when they occurred (i.e., decisions could be more easily identified
—using the generic urban design process, which is based on an amalgamation of
established decision-making processes, as a guide—through knowledge of what occurred
immediately before, including who was involved in previous decision-making and what
tools they used to make those decisions). In the London and Manchester case studies, the
actions and stages related to some of the actions and stages in the generic urban design
process (Boyko et al., 2005, 2006). In the Sheffield case study, the process took the form of
five key decisions, rather than discrete stages and actions. Because several key decisionmakers contributed to the development of the neighbourhood, understanding how they
contributed to the overall area was important in illustrating the process. With more time,
process maps could have been developed for each of the five key decisions as stand-alone
Clerkenwell, London (Brewhouse Yard): e Process
Period 1
• 1995-97: Client buys site,
brings in architects.
Architects appraise site,
identify requirements from
Planning and develop
objectives. Pre-design
discussions begin.
• 1998: Architects design for
outline planning permission,
consulting stakeholders, and
communicate their objectives
to Planning. They work on
designs with Case Officers
and submit applications.
• 1998: RSL is approached by
client to provide affordable
housing. RSL seeks funding.
• 1998: Planning evaluated
applications using Site brief,
design strategies and other
• 1998: Client granted planning
permission. A new value is
generated for the land and
the client sells site.
Period 2
Period 3
• 1998: New client buys site,
brings in international
architects, informally consults
Case Officer about site and
forms objectives.
• 1998: Leases Berry House to
Internet company.
• 2000: Dot-com bust. Client
loses money on Berry House.
• 2000: Client sells residential
part of site to new client.
• 2000: New client brings in
residential architects.
Architects appraise context
via outline permission.
• 2000: Office part of site sold
to new client.
• 2000: RSL receives funding
for affordable housing. They
help with residential design.
• 2000: Office and residential
is designed. Key stakeholders
are consulted and Site is
appraised. Planning
applications are submitted.
• 2001: Full planning
permission granted.
Construction begins. RSL buys
affordable housing part of
• 2003: Most of the
construction is complete.
Defects liability period starts
on affordable housing.
• 2003-present day: Site is
monitored and managed by
different groups
Figure 1. e urban design process for the London case study. Source: VivaCity2020.
Sheffield City Centre (Devonshire Quarter): e Process
Devonshire Green kept as open
West One is
designed & built
The Forum opens
Inner-city housing grants fund
living on Devonshire Street
• 1981: Council keeps
Devonshire Green an open
space and creates an urban
park on the land.
• Mid-to-late 1980s: Council
allows inner city housing
grants to fund housing in
Devonshire Quarter.
• 1988: Broomhall Flats are
• 1990: The Forum opens. It
expands twice in the 13 years
since opening.
• 1991: Broomsprings, a mixedtenure development, is built
on Broomhall Flats land.
• 1993-2004: West One is
designed and built.
• 1998: The Devonshire Quarter
Association is created.
Devonshire Quarter
Association is created
• 2000: A skate park is created
in Devonshire Green.
• 2001: The Devonshire
Quarter Action Plan is
• 2004: Sheffield’s Urban
Design Compendium and City
Centre Living Strategy are
• 2004/2005: Council has
plans to renovate Devonshire
Green with help of
Devonshire Quarter
Figure 2. e urban design process for the Sheffield case study. Source: VivaCity2020.
Manchester/Salford (Central Salford): e Process
Early vision and stakeholder
Selection of team
1st stage briefing & conceptual
• Early 2002: Chief Executive
thinks about a unifying vision
for Central Salford to
improve quality of life.
• Mid 2002: Chief Executive
asks a ‘face’ and others to
join him.
• August 2003: A Steering
Group is formed to help
transform Central Salford.
They believe a design
competition is best way to
articulate a vision.
2nd stage briefing & conceptual
• January 2004: The first stage
brief for the design
competition is written.
• 16 July 2004: Expressions of
interest returned by
competition consortia.
• 27 July 2004: Short-listing of
• 29 July 2004: Tenders are
• 12 November 2004:
Interview and presentation by
competition consortia to the
judging panel.
• 15 November 2004:
Appointment of winning
competition consortium.
• Winter-Autumn 2005: Study
to create vision and
regeneration framework is
conducted. Various
stakeholders are consulted.
Figure 3. e urban design process for the Manchester case study. Source: VivaCity2020.
Looking across the three case studies, relevant findings surfaced about the urban design
processes, sustainability and tools. Each of these issues will be discussed in turn.
e Process
All three case studies highlighted the lack of an explicit urban design process being
followed (e.g., written down, visual, tabular). Rather, decision-makers employed an ad hoc
process, particularly in London and Sheffield, shaped by past experiences, knowledge,
policy, private sector needs and the public sector planning process. ese ad hoc
processes were shared implicitly within individual organisations (e.g., architecture firm),
but not necessarily between organisations (e.g., local authority and developer).
In the Manchester case study, a process for forming an urban regeneration company
(URC) was observed. e team involved with the URC used guidance from English
Partnerships, additional guidance documents and past experiences from established URCs
to help consider different strategies. e URC team was following a process (i.e., for
establishing a quasi-governmental body to consider urban regeneration), albeit not a
process for more sustainable urban design in the regeneration area.
Decision-makers employed a variety of tools in the three case studies. ese included
general government guidance, interpersonal skills, personality traits, planning documents
and temporal/structural issues. Rarely mentioned was computer-based support. is
could be because the interviewees often had technical help to assist them when needed.
Nonetheless, the increasing ubiquity of such tools indicates that they will continue to play
a critical role in decision-making.
In London, decision-making tools were a mix of both human- and policy and planningcentred. Public sector planners mentioned that the right team, comprised of good-quality
planners to achieve a local authority’s goals, was fundamental. Team members also
needed to have good brief-writing and design strategy skills, know suitable government
policy, be conversant with the historical area and planning context and hold pre-planning
application meetings to negotiate planning-related issues and develop a good, long-term
working relationship with applicants. Private sector decision-makers said that holding
internal design review meetings were key, particularly for architects who wanted
constructive feedback from colleagues before showing client teams any designs.
In Sheffield, the local authority mainly referenced government policies and programmes
when making decisions. ey also read academic journals and trade magazines about
various issues (e.g., city centre housing) and had an intimate knowledge of the economic
climate in the city, which was helpful when making decisions about new development
opportunities. Private sector decision-makers used their knowledge and prior experiences
in Sheffield to find the best development opportunities. is often took the form of relying
on “gut feelings,” rather than using common research studies to make decisions.
Nonetheless, they always tried to have a good working relationship with public sector
In Manchester, many of the local authority’s decision-making tools were people- and
characteristics-based. is is likely because the process was just beginning; thus, reflection
was needed to think about leadership, the team, goals and value systems. Central Salford
had a visionary leader who had strong conviction and fervour to take forth an urban
regeneration vision. e leader also knew that he had to surround himself with the “right”
team, so he first hired a media-savvy person who was passionate about Central Salford.
Together, they employed a team with experience and knowledge in academia, brief
writing, business, government, planning, regeneration, and the city, itself. ey all shared
a similar value system (i.e., increasing quality of life).
e three case studies demonstrated that sustainability was explicitly considered in
decision-making. However, it was considered by different decision-makers, at different
times and at different levels of detail.
Most of the decision-makers who made decisions about sustainability were in local
authority planning departments. ey were responsible for examining the robustness of
the planning applications within context. Such assessments included a range of fine-
grained decisions about building details (e.g., the style of pointing used between bricks)
and more strategic design decisions (e.g., the legibility of a site in a built-up borough), all
of which impacted on the sustainability of the urban design projects.
Private sector developers and architects made sustainability decisions, often in
consultation with clients, landowners, financiers and insurance actors. e level of
decision was mostly at the building-level (e.g., use of local building materials) and rarely
encompassed sustainability decisions at the neighbourhood level and beyond. When the
latter decisions were made, local authority often strongly guided decision-makers to do so.
Economic feasibility was another reason for private sector decision-makers to consider
Timing of decisions
Decision-makers made sustainable urban design decisions throughout the process. In
particular, decisions were made during brief preparation (by local authorities), while
designing and developing the urban design sites (by local authorities and the private
sector) and when evaluating and selecting a design for planning approval (by local
authorities) (see Figure 1). us, local authorities had more opportunities to consider
sustainability at many stages of the process than did decision-makers in the private sector.
Level of detail of decisions
e three case studies demonstrated that the level of detail of decisions about
sustainability depended on what was important in that area and who was making the
In London, sustainability was written into local authority planning briefs, guidance and
policy. Planning and design officers also wrote about sustainability in the reports they gave
to their planning committee. Nonetheless, the officers said sustainability was not a
concept that was fully enforced through the planning system at the time of the case study
in the 1990s. e private sector architect interviewed repeated these claims, stating that,
due to restrictions on funding, he could not create an environmentally sustainable design
(e.g., green roofs, greywater recycling).
In Sheffield, local sustainability policy was mostly absent in the early 1980s. Nonetheless,
local authorities and the private sector emphasised dimensions of sustainability. For
example, the decision by the local authority to keep a park as an open space, rather than
develop on it, is rooted in environmental and social sustainability (i.e., parks provide an
oasis in a dense, urban space; parks are amenities for neighbouring residents). Moreover,
an entrepreneur’s decision to create a mixed-use space for new retail businesses and
leisure activities stemmed from his wish to help local businesses and create “a happening”
in the city (i.e., promoting economic and social sustainability). Other decisions, such as
allowing inner city housing, forming a neighbourhood association and creating a mixeduse site of office, retail and residential, highlighted the importance of social and economic
In Manchester, sustainability was rarely mentioned in the earliest design and regeneration
briefing documents for the international design competition. When it was cited,
sustainability was found under regeneration, which mostly concerned economic growth.
us, design competition teams did not know the full extent of the sustainability
challenges in the deprived area. Moreover, during the judging of the design competition
entries, sustainability took a back seat to value for money, how the entries looked,
creativity, market awareness, compatibility with government and aspiration.
e revised urban design process with decision-making tools
Having analysed the case study processes and compared them with the generic process,
the urban design process was revised to reflect two new insights: sustainability needs to be
considered at every stage and a consistent set of tools will enable decision-makers to make
the most appropriate choices for sustainability. e revised process contains five stages, as
well as sustainability tasks, sustainability reviews, a legacy archive1 and a suite of tools that
have emerged from the VivaCity2020 project for decision-makers to use (tools with an
asterisk, ‘*’, may be more useful at particular scales and types of urban design projects,
such as a Local Authority masterplan) (see Figure 5).
1 A legacy archive is a device used to store knowledge, information and recorded decisions from an urban design project. Decision‐makers can look at the information to help them make decisions on their current project and future projects.
Figure 4. e revised urban design process. Source: VivaCity2020.
Stage 0: “Need/ Opportunity Identification.” In Stage 0, an individual or team (e.g.,
local authority, land owner) identifies a need (e.g., more green space) or an opportunity
(e.g., new family homes) for an urban design project. e identification of a potential
location for the project as well as partnership opportunities also occurs here. It is
important for the individual or team to consider economic, environmental and social
sustainability factors at this early stage when making decisions about the project because
critical issues and tradeoffs will already being to emerge.
Stage 1, ‘Exploration.’ In Stage 1, a Development Team is formed to explore the urban
design project from a variety of angles (e.g., architecture, context, finances, sustainability)
and develop the project further.
A Project Sustainability Group also is formed, consisting of people who will likely be
involved through the lifetime of the project (e.g., construction agencies, developers,
financiers/investors, local authority, residents). A Group leader will be appointed who has
the appropriate skills for the position. It will be the leader’s responsibility to ensure that
new expertise is added to the team when necessary. In some cases, the Group may be only
one or two people, especially when the project is small or the need/opportunity from
Stage 0 is still being investigated. eir main task is to guarantee that sustainability is
considered throughout the process.
Both sets of teams will take the outputs from Stage 0 and begin to formalise them into a
Sustainability Agenda. It is essential that they understand the basic tenets of sustainability
and work in concert to create a viable project and a Sustainability Agenda.
Sustainability Tasks. Between Stage 0 and the first Sustainability Review (see below), the
Project Sustainability Group—with the help of the Development Team in some
circumstances—creates a Sustainability Agenda based on knowledge, experience,
information and decisions recorded in the legacy archive. e Agenda contains a ranked
list of sustainability issues that the Group sees as important and will carry through to
Stages 2 (Design and Development) and 3 (Detailed Design) of the project. It sets out in
writing how the teams understand the sustainability issues and issue rankings within the
project. is Agenda should be re-assessed throughout the process to ensure that existing
and new sustainability issues are considered and ranked accordingly.
Sustainability Review. Before the Development Team begins designing and developing
their ideas for the project, they must agree on the Sustainability Agenda with the Project
Sustainability Group. Doing so gives both teams a chance to think about the sustainability
issue rankings and to negotiate any tradeoffs on the issues.
Tools to use between Stages 0 and 2:
• Bibliographic review of mixed-use: organised by theme; includes books, web site,
journals and conferences
• Environmental quality case studies: explains innovative, qualitative and
quantitative methods for capturing environmental quality in London, Manchester
and Sheffield; discusses findings related to residents’ experiences within city
centres and measured levels of greenhouse gases
• Housing case studies: shows residential areas in three city centres—London
(Clerkenwell), Manchester (Hulme) and Sheffield (Devonshire Quarter)—and the
various types of housing that have been built in the UK from the 1820s until the
present day
Liveability postal survey: based on the Government's “liveability agenda” to capture
residential satisfaction in an area. It comprises 24 questions, divided into four
themes: upkeep and management of public space and buildings, road traffic and
transport-related issues, abandonment or non-residential use of domestic property
and anti-social behaviour
Night-time economy and crime case studies: explores the relevant literature in
detail as well as the night-time economy and crime in London, Manchester and
Retail and crime case studies: explores the relevant literature in detail as well as
retail and crime in London, Manchester and Sheffield
Space Syntax analysis: shows the relationship between street layout and residential
property value using Council Tax Bandings, locational variables, age, property size
and ambient density; shows the value and formation of urban centres by exploring
the Space Syntax theory of Centre Formation, comparing different high streets
using graphical representation and statistical analysis
*Toilet user personas: each persona is an ‘archetypal user’, created in collaboration
with user groups in research about city centre toilet provision
*Toilet user surveys: used to indicate people’s feelings about how provision meets,
or fails to meet, the local community’s needs
*Urban design and the creative arts: using data from the research, two artists
created videos and prints, giving an alternative insight into sustainability and the
urban experience of city users and residents
Stage 2: “Design & Development.” In Stage 2, the actions of the Development Team
correspond to stages/phases in construction management and architectural processes
(e.g., Phase 4, Outline Conceptual Design, of the Process Protocol; Stage C of the RIBA
Plan of Work). During this time, the Development Team begins designing their plan and
considering design and development issues pertaining to sustainability.
Sustainability Tasks. Between the first and second Sustainability Reviews, the two teams
will generate Sustainability Advice as part of pre-planning application meetings. is task
gives both teams an opportunity to give and seek advice about the sustainability of the
project, and discuss sustainability tradeoffs. e tradeoff discussions may lead to a reranking of sustainability issues and a revised Sustainability Agenda, to be presented at the
second Sustainability Review.
Sustainability Review. e Project Sustainability Group will discuss tradeoffs and agree
the re-ranking of the Sustainability Agenda with the Development Team. is allows both
teams to be involved in the process and understand what sustainability issues are being
considered in the project. e Project Sustainability Group also will examine and agree
the Development Team’s preliminary designs.
Tools to use between Stages 2 and 3:
• Environmental quality case studies: see above
• *Inclusive toilet hierarchy: identifies a hierarchy of provision in reference to awayfrom-home toilets; used to inform debates about the number and types of
accessible toilet cubicles in any context
I-VALUL: a presentation, exploring residential burglary and street robbery and the
value of personal and property security
*Hulme case study: looks at the New Urbanist regeneration of Hulme, assessing
whether the area has become a safer and more sustainable place to live
Open Space Strategy: quantitative data for 30 housing schemes, including figure/
ground ratios of buildings and open spaces, the extent and type of non-residential
uses, the public/private designation of open spaces, the local street hierarchy and
the type, height, transparency and permeability of building façades and secondary
boundaries (e.g., walls)
Spatial data analysis: used to map economic, social and land-use diversity in the
case study areas using GIS. Can be used with Space Syntax to identify street and
pedestrian routes and on-street surveys to identify pedestrian movement (data
available for London and Sheffield)
*Toilet user personas: see above
*Toilet user surveys: see above
External tools:
o Complex Built Environment Systems: a group interested in developing
solutions to practical design, construction and managements problems
o Cultural Planning Toolkit and Guidance
o Design Against Crime: research, educational material and policy initiatives
that aim to improve design’s effective in reducing crime
o Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors: research consortium focussed on
ways to improve the design of outdoor environments to enhance older
people’s quality of life
o Live Work Network: an organisation devoted to providing information on
live/work units
o Space Syntax: an organisation providing an evidence-based approach to the
planning and design of cities
o Street Design Index: uses comprehensive mapping of neighbourhoods,
communities and routes to enable decision-makers to consider a wide range
of urban design issues (e.g., fear of crime, surveillance, amenities, signage)
Stage 3: “Detailed Design.” In Stage 3, the actions of the Development Team correspond
to stages/phases in construction management and architectural processes, (e.g., Phase 5,
Full Conceptual Design, of the Process Protocol; Stages D and E of the RIBA Plan of
Work). During the time, the Development Team progresses in more detail with their
designs, demonstrating an exhaustive understanding of design issues pertaining to
Sustainability Tasks. Between the second and third Sustainability Reviews, the two teams
will seek and provide Sustainability Performance Advice as part of pre-planning
application meetings. is task will give both teams a chance to share information and
knowledge about the proposed design and its potential performance in terms of
sustainability ahead of the formal performance assessment at the third Sustainability
Sustainability Review. Once the Development Team has created a detailed design for the
project and discussed sustainability performance with the Project Sustainability Group,
the latter will evaluate the design against the Sustainability Agenda. Agreement between
the detailed design and the Sustainability Agenda allows a “go-no go” decision for
planning application submission. Disagreement suggests that the two teams will have to
look at the Sustainability Advice given previously and will have negotiate further
sustainability tradeoffs. Without this review, the Development Team may feel less certain
about the robustness of their planning application with respect to the design and to
Tools to use between Stages 3 and 4:
• Toilet design templates: building on recommendations from a wide range of British
Standards, this guide is used to help design accessible and inclusive toilets
Stage 4: “Detailed Design Implementation.” In Stage 4, the actions of the Development
team correspond to stages/phases in construction management and architectural
processes (e.g., Phase 6, Coordinated Design, Procurement and Full Financial Authority, of
the Process Protocol; Stages F through L of the RIBA Plan of Work). Pending planning
permission, the project will be constructed during this time.
Sustainability Tasks. Once the project is built, both teams will consent to a Strategy for
Sustainability Monitoring, which outlines management and maintenance plans for the site
and the surrounding context in the short- and long-term. e strategy should incorporate
a budget, timeline and a list of stakeholders who will manage and maintain the project
over its lifetime.
Sustainability Review. e two teams will review and assess the Strategy for
Sustainability Monitoring, using the legacy archive and the Project Sustainability Reviews
to guide assessment. is assessment offers a formal benchmark against which future
urban design decisions can be compared and evaluated.
Tools to use between Stages 3 and 4:
• Urban design process case studies: discussed in this paper
• Spatial data analysis: see above
is paper has demonstrated that, while cities cannot be designed in five easy steps,
showing how urban design projects “come to be” and understanding where the gaps in
knowledge lie certainly can help to illuminate a complex process and improve it. From the
literature and the case studies, it was evident that sustainability and the tools used in
decision-making were not made explicit nor considered consistently. e revised generic
process takes these lessons and incorporates them into each stage, adding sustainability
tasks and reviews for decision-makers to undertake. is gives stakeholders an
opportunity to holistically evaluate sustainability within urban design projects and see
where tradeoffs and negotiations lie. Having a consistent suite of decision-making tools to
use at each stage of the process also helps in making more informed decisions about
specific sustainability issues. e legacy archive can be utilised to capture the above
information and store it for current and future use on urban design projects on that site
and in the area. Finally, the generic process provides sufficient detail for sustainable
decision-making without being too prescriptive, allowing for context-specific urban
design that follows a loose series of actions. Perhaps it is not so difficult after all?
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