Skip to main content

Table 3 Problems, issues, and challenges pertaining to sustainable urban forms

From: Generating a vision for smart sustainable cities of the future: a scholarly backcasting approach

What to solve, deal with, or overcome Deficiencies, Limitations difficulties, fallacies, and uncertainties
Problems • Not only in practice but also in theory have sustainable urban forms been problematic and daunting to deal with as manifested in the kind of the non-conclusive, limited, conflicting, contradictory, uncertain, and weak results of research obtained. This is partly due to the use of traditional collection and analysis methods and data scarcity. These results pertain particularly to the actual effects and benefits of sustainability as assumed or claimed to be delivered by the design principles and strategies adopted in planning and development practices.
• Sustainable urban forms fall short in considering smart solutions within many urban domains where such solutions could have substantial contributions to the different aspects of sustainability.
• Deficiencies in embedding various forms of advanced ICT into urban design and planning practices associated with sustainable urban forms.
• Sustainable urban forms remain static in planning conception, unscalable in design, inefficient in operational functioning, and ineffective in management without advanced ICT in response to urban growth, environmental pressures, changes in socio-economic needs, global shifts, discontinuities, and societal transitions.
• Realizing compact cities and eco-cities require making countless and complex decisions about green and energy-efficient technologies, urban layouts, building design, and governance.
• Divergences in and uncertainties about what to consider and implement from the typologies and design concepts of models of sustainable urban form.
• Sustainable urban forms are in themselves very complex in terms of management, planning, design, and development, so too are their domains in terms of coordination and integration as well as their networks in terms of coupling and interconnection.
• Sustainable cities and smart cities are weakly connected as ideas, visions, and strategies as well as extremely fragmented as landscapes at the technical and policy levels.
• Sustainability goals and smartness targets are misunderstood as to their—rather clear—synergies.
• There is a need for solidifying the existing applied theoretical foundations in ways that provide an explanation for how the contribution of sustainable urban forms to sustainability can be improved and maintained on the basis of big data technology and its applications.
• There is no strategic framework for merging the informational and physical landscapes of the existing models of sustainable urban form.
Issues • In relation to spatial scales, the existing models of sustainable urban forms tend to focus more on the neighbourhood level than on the city level in terms of design and planning due to the uncertainties surrounding the design principles and planning practices as to their actual sustainability effects and benefits.
• Conceiving cities only in terms of forms remains inadequate to achieve the goals of sustainable development. It should be informed by the processual outcomes of urbanization to attain these goals, as this involves asking the right questions related to the behavior of inhabitants; the processes of living, consuming, and producing; and the processes of building urban environments—in terms of whether these are sustainable.
• Cities evolve and change dynamically as complex systems and urban environments, so too is the underlying knowledge of design and planning that is historically determined to change perennially in response to new factors.
• In urban planning and policy making, sustainable cities have tended to focus mainly on infrastructures for urban metabolism—sewage, water, energy, and waste management while falling short in considering innovative solutions and sophisticated methods for urban operational functioning, planning, design, and development.
Challenges • One of the most significant challenges is to integrate and augment sustainable urban forms with advanced technologies and their novel applications—in ways that enable them to improve, advance, and maintain its contribution to the goals of sustainable development.
• There are difficulties in translating sustainability into the built, infrastructural, and functional forms of cities.
• There are difficulties in evaluating the extent to which the existing models of sustainable urban form contribute to the goals of sustainable development. It is not an easy task to even judge whether or not a certain urban form is sustainable.
• One of the key scientific and intellectual challenges pertaining to sustainable urban forms is to relate the underlying typologies and infrastructures to their operational functioning and planning through control, automation, management, optimization, and enhancement.
• There will always be challenges to address and overcome and hence improvements to realize in the field of sustainable cities, and this has much to do with the perception underlying the conceptualization of progress concerning cities. This centers around what we think we are aspiring to, what we assess “progress” to be, and what changes we want to make.