Urban planners typically rely on macro-level data (e.g. census data) to develop long-term plans for urban infrastructure provision. Emerging solutions in smart cities and big data adopt this top-down approach based on principles of efficiency and cost effectiveness.
On the other hand, crowdsourced data is growing in popularity and use, capturing information through citizen engagement to provide more localised, individual and frequent information. This opens up new possibilities for planners, enabling the detail and voices of city dwellers to be the fabric from which planning strategies are built.
Health and wellbeing
Mental health conditions are one of the most significant contributors of overall global disease burden and cost society an estimated £1.6 trillion per year (1). Urbanisation and urban densification are important factors that have been shown to have a detrimental effect on mental health (2). If not managed properly, high density housing and commercial development in existing urban areas and new towns will result in increasing pressures on the environment and ecosystem services, which will have adverse impacts on mental health and wellbeing. We must look for smarter solutions.
Greenspace - a term used to describe maintained and unmaintained environmental areas including nature reserves, wilderness and urban parks - has been incorporated into urban contexts for decades for aesthetic and recreational purposes (3). Emerging evidence suggests that greenspace, whether used for recreation or physical activity (i.e. ‘green exercise’), can improve mental health and wellbeing. Indeed, individuals who use greenspace or engage in green exercise have less mental distress, less anxiety and depression and healthier cortisol levels (1).
Using new technology
Despite the promise and potential of crowdsourced data for use in policy-making, a lack of knowledge and experience exists when combining crowdsourcing approaches with new technology platforms, such as Internet of Things (IoT), which can translate to barriers in adoption rates and relevance to stakeholders involved in the planning process. This project is looking to overcome such barriers to ensure the potential health benefits of greenspace are maximised, through innovative, community-focussed evidence gathering.
- Beatley, Timothy. 2011. Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
Header image by Marco Verch, CC-BY 2.0, from Flickr.