Planning - the glue that binds engineering to strategic consultancy

Urban life 30 May 2017 Henrik Stener Pedersen

Thorough, holistic planning is essential in ensuring sustainable development, experts state.

4 min

As temperatures and water levels rise, and more people migrate to urban areas, we have to prepare our cities, infrastructure and public and private energy systems. According to some planning experts, one major potential for governments, cities and companies alike lies in replacing patchwork solutions with all-inclusive, integrated solutions. 

“There is a growing demand for holistic approaches to tackle the multiple challenges of urban development - and thus also for planning,” says Simone Sandholz, Research Associate at the Institute for Environment and Human Security at the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany. 

Copenhagen as a global role model

By 2050 the number of people living in urban areas will have climbed from 54% to 66% of the world’s population. At the same time, a globally growing middle class is demanding a higher quality of life, especially in emerging economies.

This increases the risk of resource scarcity, pollution and other environmental problems. Climate change also poses risks – and demands solutions. 

Simone Sandholz highlights that the growing demand for holistic approaches has been stated in some of the main international documents produced in connection with the Post-2015 Agenda. These include the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as goal 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Another example is the recently adopted New Urban Agenda, which calls for sustainable and coordinated urban development. 

“This certainly requires new ways of planning cities and education – and global case studies like Copenhagen have proven that such holistic approaches are seen and can serve as global role models,” Simone Sandholz says.

NYC needed a 360-degree solution 

Ramboll has been working closely with the City of Copenhagen for more than 30 years, trying to ensure sustainable development in the Danish capital.

Planning must incorporate a variety of offerings to be adequate for a client and society as a whole.

"You need deep knowledge of different disciplines to be able to see and paint the whole picture – and to deliver a 360-degree solution. Technical excellence in engineering details is not enough. Very strong skills in strategic advisory won’t do it either. Planning is the glue needed to bind the two together – and the binder that ensures sustainable development," explains Henrik Stener Pedersen, Director at Ramboll.

He mentions an example: when Ramboll was selected to do a climate resilience study for New York City, the hydraulic expertise from Ramboll Water was not enough for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. Neither were strategic considerations about the general policies and goals for climate adaptation. It was the combination of the two – plus a cost-benefit analysis that took the economic, environmental and social aspects into account. And this was true sustainability in the broad sense of the word. 

Naturally, the challenges for governments, cities and companies differ in several ways. But one thing they all have in common is the need for an integrated approach – and it is here that Ramboll’s expertise within urban masterplanning, energy planning and infrastructure planning comes to the fore.


Written by Michael Rothenborg