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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Morter-De Cecco

Using Data Technology to Build Sustainable Cities

In the face of escalating climate change impacts, the cities of tomorrow stand at a pivotal juncture. As a United Nations report projects, by 2050, over 68% of the global population will reside in urban areas. This demographic shift underscores the critical need for smart, technology-driven solutions to foster sustainable living.


Financial imperatives also drive the push towards urban sustainability, particularly in real estate. Savills reports that the combined value of land and infrastructure now surpasses the total of global debt, shares, and stocks, reaching an astounding $228 trillion – equating to 3.5 times the global GDP.


The intersection of technology and data is increasingly central to this urban transformation. Studies from Umeå University in Sweden highlight how municipalities in Umeå and Stockholm are leveraging climate data and modelling. By capturing real-time data on infrastructural risks, such as heightened flood probabilities, the real estate sector can enact more effective policies addressing asset vulnerability.


Open data's limitless potential facilitates the exchange of ideas and strategies for more efficient urban planning and management. As Dr Marcel van Oosterhout from the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics notes, this 'hive of numbers' is instrumental in preparing the real estate industry for the infrastructural impacts of climate change.


However, the journey towards harnessing open data for sustainable urban development is not without its challenges. The ethical implications of using open data are significant, as seen in Lagos, Nigeria. There, data-driven decisions prioritizing lower environmental hazard risks have led to the construction of affluent neighbourhoods through the controversial displacement of existing residents.


Thus, it becomes evident that the use of data in assessing real estate vulnerability necessitates stringent regulation. As urban growth accelerates the demand for such technologies, their long-term implications remain to be fully understood.


Arup suggests that the ethical usage of open data by real estate firms is vital for the sustainability of future urban areas. This requires strategic planning supported by technology, ensuring effective collaboration between public bodies monitoring environmental hazards and the private real estate sector.


In summary, while the real estate industry increasingly relies on open data to ensure environmental and social sustainability in urban infrastructure, the unethical application of this technology – such as the displacement of existing communities – calls for a more just approach to employing technology to accommodate the burgeoning urban populace.


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