Kelly Watson is a Research Associate at the University of Manchester. She recently submitted her PhD thesis that investigated how to measure and disseminate the social value of buildings, using methodologies from the social impact sector. Her current post-doc research has developed a wellbeing valuation approach for the built environment, to promote understanding of the impact of design on the people that use it.
SSG partnered with Royal Roads University and whatIf? Technologies on a three year project to create Places+Spaces, a new model to assist local government decision-makers in accurately assessing multiple policy options for sustainable community development. The “engine” of this tool is an integrated systems simulation model of the community incorporating community-specific data and reflecting community-specific policies and scenarios. (The “engine” works by tracing complex relationships between policy options – investment choices and impacts – and impacts – built environment, resource consumption, and financial viability).
This ambitious project was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund. Places+Spaces is the first model of its kind in Canada and was tested in three cities: Tofino, Moncton, and Colwood.
“Communities are faced with a gamut of wicked problems,” says Professor Ann Dale of Royal Roads University who led the project. “We needed a wicked solution to support more sustainable community decision-making and that’s where systems dynamic modelling like Places+Spaces comes in. This approach allows us to quantify relationships that are too complex to understand using mere intuition.”
One of the largest issues facing local government decision-makers when it comes to implementing strategies for sustainable development is the potential complexity of the strategies proposed, which makes evaluation and comparison of pathways difficult. Cities are no longer seen as just ‘pipes and roads’ – citizens are calling for their backyards to be developed with sustainability in mind – and planning is moving toward discussion of ‘ideas and systems’.
The beta version of Places+Spaces has been released as an open source tool and is available as a free resource for use by all regional and municipal staff and elected leaders.
“Right now the tool is in the realm of dedicated users and we hope that over time by releasing it as open source, we anticipate developing version 2.0 which will be more user friendly,” says Dale. Development of the next version will be led by a new private/public sector partnership between SSG and whatif? Technologies.