A century of cities< Back to Blog

Back in 1980, only 25% of the world’s population were living in cities. By 2080, that figure is predicted to be 85%.

Although the migration of people into cities is nothing new, this rise over a hundred-year period is significant and places some key challenges in the hands of metropolitan planners and developers.

As a company that’s playing a small part in building this ‘century of cities’, in this week’s blog, we’re asking will the growth in city-living be a good or bad thing?

While it seems obvious to bring up the problems associated with cities (overcrowding, divisions, crime, environmental impact etc), surprisingly there is some evidence that cities can be good for us.

In lower income countries, for instance, increased urbanisation often goes hand-in-hand with a rise in living standards (The World Bank’s 2009 World Development Report). Recent OECD studies have shown that businesses located in cities are more productive and the IPCC observes that cities are key sites for taking action against climate change.

As things stand today, our growing cities are by no means all shining examples of prosperity, enterprise or environmental excellence. But, with the right agenda for change in place, there’s every opportunity for them to become great places for that 85% of us to live and work in ways that better support our natural environment too.

Whether this happens or not is likely to depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Reforming how cities are planned and managed
  • Raising the quality of urban leadership
  • Embracing new technologies to make cities ‘smarter’
  • Investing in infrastructure (particularly around energy and transport)
  • Sourcing new forms of wealth/capital to match the scale in growth
  • Commitment (at a global level) to policies that support the ‘greener’ built environment
  • Adapting real estate models to the requirements of new urban industries and enterprises
  • Taking a longer-term approach to city zoning strategies so they can handle more intensive use.

A rising population

What’s interesting is that, alongside this urbanisation trend, it’s also predicted that the global population will continue to increase and then stabilise at around 10 billion.

As we know, here in the UK, builders and developers are battling to keep up with demand for new housing and we’re already seeing vast expansions to many of our existing towns and cities.

We’re not experts at large-scale city planning, but we’d like to take the optimistic view that, with a spot of radical leadership, our cities have the potential to be well-run, smart, thriving and environmentally efficient places. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2080 to see it in action!