Urban Planning with Holistic Problem-Solving in Mind

Written by Lauren Newby, Associate Director, Urban Solutions at Hatch

Editors Note:  This blog originally appeared at Hatch and has been reposted with permission.  To read more great articles from expert authors, check out: https://www.hatch65.com/home/articles/

By 2030, the global population is projected to reach 8.5 billion (1) and by 2050, seven billion people will live in urban areas (2). The impact of this on our cities and urban spaces is, and will be, huge, complex, and multifaceted as cities and urban agglomerations balance everything from living standards to transportation, food, access to water, and sanitation.  This is also a time of unparalleled access to complex data and new technologies that present opportunities for exploration.  The role of socio-economic analysis to understand the drivers of change and provide smart insights to anticipate future trends has never been more important.

Collaboration Leads to More Effective Decisions and Results

Increasingly, there is acknowledgement that tackling city development issues cannot be done in silos; a collaborative, multidisciplinary path leads to better decision-making.  Efficiencies can be gained by identifying challenges early on through a comprehensive examination of socio-economic conditions and future trends and continues throughout the whole life cycle of a project.  Developing a strategic response therefore that foresees both opportunities and challenges can, in turn, enable a better articulated shared vision that sets out a clear plan of action.  Securing public sector investment to support implementation is also a key, and planners and developers, for example, need to consider a robust approach to business case development that establishes a clear return on investment.  Once a project has concluded, it is important to distill what works through monitoring and evaluation to assess good practice, lessons learned, and value for money.

Planning for Tomorrow

City planners rely on deep technical capabilities, rigorous analysis, and visualization of complex data to understand future trends.  In helping an urban setting, for example, overcome multiple economic barriers targeted growth strategies focus on a number of wide-ranging interventions such as planning and land use, transport, health and well-being, skills, clean growth, and, most recently, COVID-19 recovery can ensure a more prosperous future.  These thorough analyses provide cities with stronger insights into future planning and are vital in the decision-making processes.

Urban settings must consider the factors that stimulate change, what will influence the economy and what the implications will be for potential future trends.  Whether it is the public or private sector, all investment must demonstrate value for money.  Economics-led master plans are therefore based on what is deliverable, investable, and fundable.

What does the client of the future look like?

The public sector is an important driver for demonstrating value through nationally and internationally recognized guidance and practices.  We have seen the private sector adopt many of these key standards set by governments around the world.  This focus on standards and value is a key part of how projects should be approached; through business case development, appraisals, and evaluations to ensure that a sound evidence base underpins strategic decisions.

We are currently facing and working in unprecedented times where the impact of COVID-19 is testing the resilience and adaptability of how we live and work.  We have witnessed rapid innovation and increased agility in our economies as businesses and services pivot to enable safe operations in this new norm. The disruption of the pandemic has created a fundamental shift in how we live, play, study, and work.  It is an opportunity for cities to understand the scale and characteristics of new challenges and develop recovery strategies that will encourage resilience and growth.

At the same time, issues such as the climate emergency and the commitment to net zero carbon emissions, digitization, automation and artificial intelligence, as well as public funding constraints continue to shape our future.  There are uncertainties ahead and the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the economy are not yet fully understood.  In response, the world needs to be agile in embracing new opportunities and diversifying, enabling us to become better-prepared for positively changing environments in the future.

Urban Planning with Holistic Problem-Solving in Mind

About the Author 

Lauren Newby is a director with Hatch’s Urban Solutions team. Lauren provides robust research and sound analysis to inform strategic decision-making in the fields of economic development, regeneration, and strategic planning. Her team helps reshape the world’s cities through innovative technical and strategic consulting services. 

Urban Planning with Holistic Problem-Solving in Mind

About Hatch

Hatch, a global engineering, project management, and professional services firm. Whatever our clients envision, our engineers can design and build. With over six decades of business and technical experience in the mining, energy, and infrastructure sectors, we know your business and understand that your challenges are changing rapidly. We respond quickly with solutions that are smarter, more efficient, and innovative. We draw upon our 9,000 staff with experience in over 150 countries to challenge the status quo and create positive change for our clients, our employees, and the communities we serve.

Find out more on www.hatch.com.


  1. United Nations, “Population: Our growing population”, 2020, LINK
  2. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, “Urbanization”, 2020, LINK