New computer model of city dynamics could pave way to planning sustainable urban areas

Sep 11, 2013
Urban planning: City dynamics yield to computer modeling
Land use in cities can now be modeled by computer software that allows researchers to predict details such as energy use on individual plots of land. Credit: Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

The sustainability of cities is a challenge facing planners across the globe. The numerous complex and wide-ranging interactions between energy consumption, water use, transportation and population dynamics make cities intrinsically complicated systems to study.

Christopher Monterola and co-workers at A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing, Singapore, have created a computer capable of characterizing land-use patterns in different cities. This software provides planners with the ability to define the features of a particular city, as well as compare and contrast these features with those of other cities.

A city is a complex system, and evolve as a result of highly interacting units driven by a simple mechanism, Monterola notes. "Understanding the underlying simplicity in the growth of cities will allow us to model the emergence of city dynamics more accurately and, more importantly, learn to shape a city's growth based on our desired outcomes."

The team worked with high-resolution image data for Singapore and eight North American cities. They painstakingly categorized land-use into business, residential or industrial sectors, pixel by pixel, for each city. To analyze the dispersion and aggregation of land use types across the urban space, the used two parameters—'spatial ', which describes how a given sector is spread across space, and an 'index of dissimilarity', which measures the relative mixing of sectors.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The new computer model categorizes city land-use patterns over time, as in the case of Singapore shown here. Generally, industrial sectors (red) are distinct and separate from business (green) and residential (blue) areas. Credit: 2013 A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing

"The lower the entropy number, the more densely clustered a given sector is," explains Monterola. "In the cities studied, industrial areas were generally clustered and distinct from residential and business zones. There is 'safety in numbers', but only if the resources required by [a] specific sector are not compromised."

The index of dissimilarity helped to define the efficiency of different urban factors, especially transportation and . In follow-up work, the team successfully modeled the emergence of land use in cities, the surface temperatures for individual plots of land and even accurately estimated ridership—how many people are using public transport at any one time.

"The good visual and statistical resemblance of our simulations to actual cities hints at the robustness of this work so far," says Monterola. "We will add more details, including schools, churches and so on, with the aim of capturing the day-to-day routines of people in a city." Monterola believes that this groundwork will yield predictive models of different urban activities resulting from easily measured parameters that will be useful as guides for planners.

Explore further: 2014 confirmed as one of the warmest years on record globally

More information: Decraene, J., Monterola, C., Lee, G. K. K. & Hung, T. G. G. A quantitative procedure for the spatial characterization of urban land use, International Journal of Modern Physics C 24, 1250092 (2013). www.worldscientific.com/doi/ab… 21?journalCode=ijmpc

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Suburban sprawl to power cities of the future

Jul 31, 2013

A city's suburbs could hold the solution to dwindling fuel supplies by producing enough energy to power residents' cars and even top up power resources, pioneering new research has found.

Strong urban cores promote socializing in the city

Apr 15, 2013

Long commute times and urban areas that leapfrog over open space make it harder for people to socialize, but cities that are decentralized are even worse, University of Utah researchers say in a study published online today ...

Recommended for you

British lawmakers demand freeze on fracking

6 hours ago

A committee of British lawmakers demanded a national moratorium on fracking due to environmental concerns on Monday, ahead of a crucial vote intended to boost the shale gas industry.

UN moves toward major treaty for ocean biodiversity

Jan 25, 2015

UN member states agreed Saturday to begin negotiations on a treaty to protect marine biodiversity in ocean areas extending beyond territorial waters, in a move heralded by environmental organizations.

Ocean science needs more funding

Jan 23, 2015

Facing critical dangers like rising seas and the impact of climate change on marine life, US scientists need more funding in the next decade, officials said Friday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.