Creating greener cities has become one of the biggest and most important global initiatives of this century.

Australia is a leader of the green cities movement with places like Canberra and Melbourne bringing together architectural design and urban planning to create greener, safer and more connected cities of the future.

Digital tools are the crucial element enabling this move towards greener, smarter cities. 

The City of Melbourne is undergoing initiatives to make Melbourne greener with its Green Infrastructure Plan. The Plan will see Victoria’s capital city expand its parks and gardens and planting more trees. Green roofs, walls and facades will be used to increase the amount of vegetation in the city.

As Melbourne city becomes more populated, space will be maximised with both natural and designed green infrastructure, from parks to buildings and green roofs, as well as rain gardens and green laneways. This green urban infrastructure is critical to providing clean air, increasing biodiversity and providing natural spaces that improve people’s health and wellbeing in the city.

In Canberra, the ACT government has committed to action on climate change, legislating targets for carbon neutrality by 2045 to help protect the ‘bush capital’ and green infrastructure.

Canberra and Melbourne are just two of the global destinations setting the agenda for smarter, greener future cities. Across Europe, capitals like Vienna and Paris and small towns like Lemgo in Germany are paving the way for a greener future. For example, the Paris greening programme is part of the adaptation strategy of the Paris Climate Plan which aims to prepare the city for climate changes and dwindling resources. One goal of the Paris greening programme is for 23% of the Paris region to be planted with vegetation.

Architecture of a green city. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

The vision for future cities

Although there has been a surge in remote working since 2020, the majority of the world’s population is moving towards settling in cities. The United Nations forecasts 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, which means the need for urban housing will grow, traffic will worsen, and demands on resources and the environment will increase.

It’s clear that something needs to change.

Just as they are in Melbourne and Canberra, all over the world, designers, architects and governments are working on plans and initiatives for future cities.

Globally, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota and Danish architecture firm BIG are planning the world’s first programmable city, dubbed Woven City, at the foot of Mount Fuji.    

A programmable city examines how cities are translated into software and data, and provides groundbreaking analysis about how this can make a difference to the city’s way of life.

Located in Susono City at the site of the former Toyota Motor East Japan Higashi-Fuji plant, Woven City is how Toyota will integrate automobile manufacturing craftsmanship, or "Monozukuri" as it’s known in Japan, with the latest technologies to positively impact society.

Toyota's Woven City will be built on the site of a disused automotive plant at the foot of Mount Fuji. Courtesy of BIG.


Danish architectural firm BIG’s plans for the Woven City include native vegetation and wooden houses in the traditional Japanese architectural style. Image courtesy of BIG.

In Saudi Arabia, the government is attempting to do something that has never been done before in the city of NEOM; build a roadless, car-free, entirely environmentally friendly city in the middle of the desert.

Meanwhile, a similar project is underway in the Chinese province of Hebei: The city of Xiong’an has been designed to help reduce overcrowding in the nearby capital of Beijing and is intended to become a kind of green Silicon Valley. 

With urban populations growing exponentially around the world, cities need to become smarter to keep up with demands.

A smart city can leverage different data sources, from vehicle movement to energy use to water distribution, and put all the information into context for city planners, architects and designers to make better decisions.

An integrated approach to smart, green cities is needed

A smart city is a concept that uses technology to improve governance, planning, management, and the ‘livability’ of a city by gathering real-world, real-time data. With these insights, smart cities can perform better to meet citizens’ demands as well as improve sustainability.

However, the greening of cities requires a holistic, integrated approach, with long-term thinking and involvement of many different parties. For instance, not leaving the transformation of urban systems entirely up to urban planners and securing greater involvement from governments, businesses, and communities.

Technology centre. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

How technology is enabling cities of the future

To achieve forward-thinking objectives, cities are relying on smart technologies promising optimised infrastructure and logistics and spaces that are both highly liveable and environmentally sustainable.

In Norway, the City of Oslo recently used Autodesk Spacemaker to plan one of its most important projects. Spacemaker is based on artificial intelligence (AI) and uses generative design to calculate the optimum development for a plot of land. Generative design is the ideal cocreation partner for smart cities because it helps solve complex architecture, engineering, and product-design problems faster by creating multiple design options. In Oslo’s case, generative design took into account parameters such as wind, solar radiation, clearance, noise, and rainwater to improve housing standards.

This architectural re-design helped reduce low-light residential areas by 51% and noisy residential areas by 10%. With Spacemaker, Oslo’s city planners were able to plan sustainably and saved several days of laborious manual work by using AI expertise.

Smarter, greener cities build on data

Through real-world context, city administrators can predict and prioritise how to best adapt to challenges and optimise city management to build smarter cities that meet tomorrow’s needs.

Accessible, usable and relevant data helps makes this process easier, giving the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry an even greater role in the development of smarter, greener cities in Australia and around the world.

Andy Cunningham, is Regional Director, Australia & New Zealand at Autodesk.