Chapters

  1. What is urban planning?
  2. Types of urban planning services
  3. With great (design) power comes great responsibility
  4. Areas of expertise and urban planning
  5. Urban planning project spotlights

What is urban planning?

Urban planning combines land-use principles, environmental protection, public engagement and urban design to provide guidelines for urban areas such as streets, parks and buildings. It's considered an interdisciplinary field.

Types of urban planning services

  • Land-use planning
  • Zoning analysis
  • Environmental planning
  • Community planning
  • Parks and public space
  • Playgrounds and educational landscapes
  • Residential landscape design
  • Site Planning

With great (design) power comes great responsibility

Over the last decade, urban planning has emerged as a green collar profession, addressing issues such as "increased population growth, climate change and unsustainable development."

Increased population growth

Globalization has brought the world closer together, but increased migration and forced displacement due to war, natural disaster, and economic opportunity have eclipsed that. Fully developed countries now have the chance to become positive agents of change by welcoming vulnerable people and finding sustainability solutions all at the same time.

Increased population growth is not a negative issue. We want our cities' populations to grow because that is how we will survive, how our culture, identity and sense of place will survive as well. Nadi urban planner Diane Garcia even suggests that urban planning should be instilled in children from a young age to understand these ideas better. She writes, "It seems like a promising future if we allow kids to play and see the possibilities of successful urban planning from their early years. So, why aren't we allowing ourselves to be kids again and playfully transform our cities? Are we using the appropriate tools to educate, participate and generate social transformation?"

While some world leaders fan the flames of nationalism and border walls, we need to teach young people from an early age how to think and embrace global solutions. Diana goes onto explain how Joan Sweeney's book Me on the Map put together the pieces from her dreams. "It made me realize how important it is to give every child the necessary tools to help them understand their relationship with different spaces in a wide range of scales, from their bedroom to their community, to their city, country, continent and eventually finding their place on a global scale."

If we can instil these worldly aspirations onto the next generation, we can leave knowing they will find solutions that address cultural, social and environmental sustainability across all borders rather than merely within them.

Climate Change

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. The United Nations Governmental Panel on Climate Change—a collection of leading climate scientists—released a report in October 2018, warning that if the world's global temperature exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 12 years, the weather will significantly worsen. The rise in temperature will increase the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The Star newspaper has a series on climate change with reporters writing about the issue from each province. Investigative reporter Moira Welsh writes, "Canada's mean annual temperatures are now double the global warming rate, increasing by 1.7 degrees between 1948 and 2016, with higher temperatures in the north than the south, particularly in the winter, according to the report called Canada's Changing Climate. Rainfall is increasing too. Weather patterns will vary nationwide, but scientists agree that Canadians can expect more wildfires, droughts and, floods."

If our current infrastructures cannot withstand these weather patterns, it will only exacerbate issues such as homelessness, mental health/illness and displacement. Therefore, urban planners have the power to create communities that are resilient and contribute to climate stability, declares the Canadian Institute of Planners. Urban planning concepts such as complete communities or mixed-use environments can significantly reduce our carbon footprint because they prioritize pedestrians and healthy living activities over vehicles.

Unsustainable development

According to Ask about Ireland, an online public library resource, "Unsustainable development occurs when present progress is at the expense of future generations." We see this in many facets of planning and design—especially when the value of price (request for proposals, anyone?) overrides the importance of innovation, sustainability and creativity.

However, price is not the sole cause of unsustainable development—it has been around since the turn of the century, especially with the introduction of low-density suburban communities. As Nadi principal and founder Emeka Nnadi explains, "North American suburbs have added significant amounts of carbon emissions, pollution, and stormwater runoff to our environment." Urban sprawl places much strain, not only on the environment but on our civic amenities, our physical and mental health and our infrastructure's ability to withstand the effects of climate change.

The concept of New Urbanism brought the environmental (rural-to-urban) transect methodology into planning and development of human-scale-like complete communities. Complete communities reflect a sustainable development solution, creating beautiful and memorable communities through innovative planning and design while reducing economic and environmental costs.

Areas of expertise and urban planning

Poor urban planning practices are evident in our cities, such as a design that prioritizes vehicles over people and the concept of modernism, which has increased crime rates and social problem. However, as highlighted throughout this article, urban planning can address these criticisms head on and improve the health and wellbeing of people while enhancing the sustainability and resiliency of our cities and town.

As highlighted by Nadi's marketing associate Rebecca Henderson, the American Planning Association surveyed 1,040 Americans (half millennials and half baby boomers), finding that the places they want to live in were "technology-enabled cities, walkable communities, and residential areas that allowed citizens to age in place."

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Complete communities provide solutions to issues such as increased population growth, climate change and unsustainable development. However, for communities that already exist, Diana argues, focusing on urban transformation is the next valuable step. She writes:

"Until now, cities around the world—with significant growth sprouts—have made every effort to connect citizens through metros, trams and bus lines spread out to take people from the core to the places they live. However, in recent years, we have seen the opposite practice. With the revitalization of town centres, these strategies have mainly focused on bringing people back in. Downtowns turned into gentrification labs with social and economic changes that also brought different ideas on how to return permanent residents to the core, as well as facing challenges like creating public and multi-functional spaces for locals and visitors to enjoy."

However, to improve our city centres, we must first address the cultural and often racial elements of these communities. As Akum eloquently explains:

"I find the most common solution that decision-makers often rely on wiping out these areas by building more facades such as shopping complexes or condominiums—money generating projects—under the pretence that these lesser communities did not or do not exist. The results often lead to the displacement of less privileged homeowners and an increased rate of homelessness. The consequence of this often leads to ignorance from much of the general public as we question why there are so many homeless people on our city streets.”

Therefore, it’s imperative to engage with communities and listen to their needs, wants and expectations on how they see themselves thriving. Frequently, complete communities, public space and land art and mixed-use environments can overlap and intersect with one another. In urban planning, it's unavoidable as guidelines encompass all three even, which means urban planners must include community participation and engagement early.

What an urban planner has, is the ability to create these guidelines and expectations, placing sustainability, innovation and resiliency at the forefront of new planning and design to improve the standard of living for everyone.

Urban planning project spotlights

Cache Creek Community 

A private developer enlisted Nadi to develop a subdivision concept and land use plan that provides 108 lots for manufactured homes and a community centre in Wasagaming, Manitoba. The site resides along Victor Avenue with a natural creek running through it.

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Stony Mountain Secondary Plan 

The Rural Municipality (RM) of Rockwood contracted Nadi to develop a Secondary Plan on a local residential greenfield site. The plan is meant to provide land developers, home builders, and community members with the necessary tools and guidelines to ensure that the growth and development of this site will occur in a well-planned, integrated and environmentally sound manner.

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Dreamscape One

Dreamscape's founder engaged Nadi to develop a visionary 10,000-acre conceptual master plan for an innovative 22nd-century' complete community'. The client envisioned a 500-acre roofed megastructure, filled with world-class entertainment venues and theme parks, at the heart of the project. The balance of the 10,000-acre development would include extensive hospitality and recreational activities, and incorporate multiple mixed-use residential districts interwoven with business, commercial and green space networks.

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