Urban planning is the process by which humans decide what to do with land, how to protect and utilise the environment in order to fulfil certain goals. Urban planning greatly accelerated during the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century.
Liberalism and a laissez-faire style of government meant that urbanism became a matter of how to manage space to ensure economic growth. The aim was to provide citizens- i.e. factory workers- with an environment that was conducive to them being better, more efficient workers.
An urban planner is a professional occupation the seeks to optimise the effectiveness of a community’s land and infrastructure. Plans are formulated that must take into account a wide range of factors and issues like sustainability, pollution- both noise and air, traffic congestion, crime and other sociological concepts, land value, and any legal regulations.
Increasing population growth through migration and high birth rates (in places like India) and climate change are two of the main issues facing urban planners at the moment. Solutions have to be considered for their longevity and impact on the environment.
Urban planning does not just happen at the level of an urban planner. Architects, lawyers, communities, businesses and academics are all involved. A growing trend in urban planning is sustainability. In the United States that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has been developed to quantify how green the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green building and homes occurs.
LEED certified buildings are intended to be efficient consumers of resources as compared to buildings that conform to a conventional building code- one that emphasises safety for instance. In a way LEED is ensuring safety but in a long-term sense- less environmental impact now will benefit the planet hundreds and thousands of years from now.
Urban greening is a trending area of research and innovation for urban planners. Measures to ensure the creation of green spaces like parks with trees. Adding green infrastructure to existing buildings like solar panels and adding living walls can improve not only the aesthetic of an area- the rationale being that working in an office might suck, but it would be nice if it wasn’t a concrete monolith.
Urban planning is a very important profession, one that has to be safeguarded from extreme market forces that seek only to make profits. Cities such as London are currently undergoing vast privatisation of land with communities being forced out of their homes to make way for apartments and offices only affordable if you have several million in the bank.
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