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Terry D Bennett explains how sustainable cities can be created through a synchronised approach

One of the biggest challenges faced by our world is the rapid urbanization happening across geographies – something more pertinent in emerging economies like India. Obviously, the existing infrastructure is unable to cope with the fast paced growth taking place in our cities.
This brings us to creating new infrastructure that ideally should be built with a long-term vision but is not necessarily done so. Unfortunately, there is a severe disconnect amongst these three phenomena causing most of our cities and towns to become metropolitan nightmares in every sense adding sinfully to the environment’s burdens.

The answer lies in connecting all three – urbanization, existing infrastructure and new infrastructure – in a synergistic manner. It is this synchronized connect that will help us create sustainable cities for our world. If you examine this issue to the core, you will realise that it can be addressed right at the design stage. In fact, it should be addressed at that stage.
We all know by now (hopefully!) that it is this all important stage that determines environmental impact of everything we do or create. The decisions taken by designers and engineers today will invariably affect the world years, decades, or even centuries into the future (assuming that our planet will last for centuries!).

Our experiences have taught us that most of the sustainability challenges that the world faces today reflect the unintended consequences of wrong design decisions of the past. Thankfully, we now know that smart design means sustainable design.
In the context of creating sustainable cities and a better world, the concept of digital cities can be of immense use. Yes, we need more green buildings since they have a considerably less environmental impact. It is time we stopped arguing that green buildings cost more; the fact is, if you have the correct design, you can substantially bring down the cost. The returns very easily offset the initial cost (investment).

While creating green buildings would be the first step, the concept of a digital city would help create a truly sustainable urbanscape. Digital cities means a collaborative environment created around a detailed 3D city model that allows users from the public, city government, construction and business communities to leverage technology solutions.
Thus, they can visualize, analyze and simulate real-world city scenarios to improve decision making and provide a common environment for sharing information. It can also help in identifying, diagnosing and even predicting problems of every scale that any city could experience. Consider a complex large scale structure in the midst of a digital city.
A 3D model of this structure will capture every possible change that it will undergo thus offering a good structural analysis. This will help the authorities prepare for and even avert worst case scenarios.
(As told to Niranjan Mudholkar)

Terry D Bennett is Senior Industry Manager, civil engineering and construction for Autodesk

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