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Organising urban growth form a sustainable development perspective


Cities are complex, living systems, with high degree of inertia which makes changes in trajectory difficult. Any particular action needs to be part of a shared comprehensive prospective vision, in order to anticipate:


A strong demographic requirement

The urban population represents over 50% of the world's population, and is set to reach 60% in 2030, that is city growth of 100 million inhabitants per year.

The challenge is enormous. This is equivalent to building as many towns and cities in the next 30-40 years as have been built since the dawn of civilisation! This urban growth must be anticipated bearing in mind the particular features of each geographical and cultural context.

Longer life expectancy is also a major component that must be integrated into the design of the urban space in many towns and cities, devising modes of life and travel that permit both the independence and harmonious coexistence of several generations with different needs to be satisfied.

The construction of a city is based on major investment with a long lifespan, the usefulness of which must be maximised. They must therefore not just meet the needs of today but also those of tomorrow, which implies anticipating likely changes in both activities and population and knowing how to incorporate them into overall planning as well into city neighbourhood development projects.


The extent of the city. Photo Credit: Arnaud Bouissou MEDDE-METL

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of natural resources is an essential requirement

Cities currently represent almost 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 60 to 80% of energy consumption, a large share of this being due to transport and buildings. Scope for progress can be found in the organisation of the city itself, its morphology, the arrangement of its activities and the mobility generated but also in all its components, in particular with regard to the energy efficiency of its buildings, management of urban services and the production of renewable energy.

Similarly, the efficient and parsimonious use of natural resources must be rooted in the overall vision of the city's development.

Opportunities for progress

Building a city that is “desirable” for its inhabitants, that is economically attractive and environmentally effective requires planning, organisation and programming of its development, incorporating, very early on, a precise vision of the objectives to be achieved in these different areas, and its progressive implementation involving all the stakeholders.


This involves the translation into strategic documents, of a vision of the city's development, serving as a framework into which the public and private projects that give life to the city and permit the optimum management of strategic urban resources, such as land for example can be fitted.

Such urban planning is iterative and is designed to be reviewed regularly and adapted to the city's development. So that the results of this planning lead to a city that is successful, attractive and good to live in, stakeholders in its construction must be able to share the economic, social and environmental objectives to be achieved so that their own capacities to act can best be deployed.

Urban planning and territorial coherence

In the context of planning, for each zone or district, urban studies must specify the nature of the operations to be carried out (housing programs, economic activities, urban services, means of transport, etc.) and their characteristics (performance indicators in terms of energy consumption, air or water quality, transport times, etc.).

They must ensure both the territorial coherence of the zone concerned as well as its integration into wider areas, bearing in mind the complexity of overlapping on a local, regional and global scale.

Rio, Brazil. Photo Credits Cécile Martin-Phipps ADEME


To meet inhabitants’ needs, a city's performance requires precise programming of the various projects to be devised and developed in each zone, in particular to ensure the best integration of the different components (habitat, equipment, transport, urban services) and their associated technologies is achieved.

Involvement of stakeholders, including the city's inhabitants and users

At all stages of planning and studies, but also during the creation of projects, consultation of and participation by the stakeholders, in particular residents, must be organised in an appropriate manner in order to share the project, to make sure it meets the needs, and, if need be, to make any necessary adaptations so that it is really taken on board by its users.

This is an essential condition for a successful outcome.

Quality of urban spaces

Particular attention must be paid, regardless of the function of the open space concerned, to the treatment of the architectural and landscaping quality of urban spaces, a factor governing amenity and pleasure for the city's inhabitants.



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