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Halcyon's 52:52:52 campaign on this site and on Twitter will start in late 2020. It will help you address 52 issues with 52 responses over 52 weeks.

Part consultancy, part thinktank, part social enterprise, Halcyon helps you prepare for and respond to personal, organisational and societal change.

A Mundane Comedy is Halcyon's new book. Extracts will appear on this site and on social media during late 2020. Please get in touch with any questions about the book or related Halcyon services.

Halcyon monitors change for more than 150 key elements of life.

What's Changing? - Habitat

Habitat

 

Please see below selected recent cities/urbanisation-related change.

 

See also: 

 

October 2020

  • Cities need revenue from knowledge-sector companies, as well as the many restaurants, dry cleaners, and pharmacies that rely on office workers to stay in business. Urban planners predict cities will survive, but change shape. Some fraction of office buildings could be repurposed as apartments, hotels, even affordable housing in city cores. Satellite hubs of the urban economy could pop up in far-flung neighbourhoods making it easier for people of various income levels to live near the places they work.
  • Even before the coronavirus crisis, a key topic of debate among town planners was how to create a sustainable, healthy urban environment that is easy to get around by either walking or cycling. To this end, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has been leading a radical overhaul of the city’s mobility culture since taking office in 2014, embraced the notion of reshaping France’s capital into a 15-minute city. The concept, which was developed by Sorbonne Professor Carlos Moreno, advocates the creation of a city of neighbourhoods, in which workers find everything they need in terms of work, retail and leisure within 15 minutes of their home. In a work context, this would see offices added to neighbourhoods that lack them so people could work closer to where they live. There would also be local co-working hubs, enabling them to come together for meetings and to collaborate when necessary.
  • So-called ’secondary cities’ around the world may reap the benefits from a fall in commuting. The work-from-home model has proven successful, with around 28% of jobs in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK already able to be remote, and up to 37% in the US, reported The Guardian. Economics lecturer Michel Serafinelli predicted post-pandemic workers would not return full time to an office, prompting an exodus to smaller towns for more space and cheaper housing. These towns will however need to amp up their broadband infrastructure to cope with a new generation of ‘telecommuters’. 

 

September 2020

  • New World, Same Humans argued that while cities are far from done, we can’t pretend that their role in our lives and economies isn’t undergoing a shift. Long commutes scarred health, social and family time for millions; they’re not coming back to the office full time. For those who depended on office workers for custom, the pain will be real. Medium-term this is a chance to diversify the use of real estate in city centres and to rebalance economies, as prosperous knowledge workers buy lunch and handle their dry cleaning in their local neighbourhoods.
  • Quartz asked: what does it take for a city to jump into the knowledge economy? A new study found one key factor: a population of at least 1.2 million. Physicist Inho Hong from the Max Planck Institute looked at the industry composition of 350 US metro areas between 1998 and 2013. He and his team found that 1.2 million people is the threshold between economies based on manual labour and those based on knowledge and innovation. Hong and his colleagues were trying to figure out whether all urban areas follow the same path as they grow, a concept they borrowed from biology. Their data analysis suggests the answer to that question is “yes.”
  • Cities struggle with traffic congestion, long commutes and increased costs for goods movement. New and emerging technologies such as ride-sharing services, e-bikes, autonomous vehicles (AVs), light rail transit (LRT) and Hyperloop can resolve transportation inefficiencies and address environmental issues. So-called smart cities can deploy new technologies to ensure renewable energy, for example, more efficient building standards or free Wi-Fi. incorporating sustainability into all aspects of urban development is an important strategy for cities to improve the health and quality of life of its citizens and meet climate change targets.
  • Chatham House warned that reducing carbon emissions from the built environment will be vital to remaining within the limit of 1.5°C global warming. In 2017, the building sector (defined as materials manufacturing, construction and building operation) contributed 39 per cent of global energy-related emissions, with a 78-22 per cent split between operational and embodied carbon.To have a high probability of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, embodied carbon emissions must be reduced by 65 per cent from their value in 2019 by 2030 and net-zero operational carbon installed as soon as possible, with the target of zero emissions by 2040.
  • Although the plight of mega-cities gets much of the attention, the pandemic is changing suburbs, too. The Economist reported from the front line of Britain’s commuterland
  • Residents in Lagos, Nigerai are paying for the city’s worsening air pollution with their lives, warned Quartz. World Bank estimates show air pollution resulted in 11,200 premature deaths in 2018 alone in Lagos - up to 60% of those were children under-five. Yet, the problem is likely to worsen as the main sources of pollution in the city: excessive vehicular traffic and power generators are not going away.

 

August 2020

 

July 2020

  • Innovation is supposed to improve our quality of life, but, as the history of transportation shows us, it often fails to consider large segments of the population. Structural inequalities and discrimination have dictated who could afford new commutes to the suburbs, and who was stuck living with dubious bus or train service - at best. In South Africa, for example, a sprawling informal minibus system arose out of a disregard by the apartheid government for the commuting needs of the country’s Black-majority population. In the US, blatant racism has always been a part of the transit story: Consider the day Rosa Parks demanded change and dignity for all Black Americans on a public bus, or the damaging legacy of white flight, or the prevailing perception of cars as the symbol of individualism and success. Quartz looked at how the coronavirus pandemic is providing a unique opportunity to correct imbalances by reshaping the way we move through cities.

 

June 2020

  • An essayist for Vox never realised how much urban planning is centred around male breadwinners until she got pregnant. Suddenly, just trying to get to work every day became a daunting expedition, and things didn’t improve once her child was born. In an essay for Vox, she asked how cities could be designed differently - from transportation to street lights - so women feel more comfortable and safe navigating their streets.

 

April 2020

  • In Scale, noted Exponential View, Geoffrey West showed that cities last longer than corporations, because they crop up naturally in places that facilitate existing flows of information and ideas, and adapt to changes of these flows. Historically, cities flourished on very tangible flows of rivers. Nowadays, they flourish on abstract flows of ideas and capital. West showed that cities outperform corporations because they are diverse, heterogenous and have enough weirdos and contrarians to be adaptable.
  • Meanwhile, cities may take the opportunity offered by the pandemic to reframe their relationship with the car. Take Milan, which will turn 35km of streets over to cyclists and pedestrians, and create space for them to maintain physical distance.  
  • Trendwatching believes that, for a while already, there have been signs that the long urban boom is coming to an end at least in the West. Today, millions of educated young aspirants pour into cities every year. They seek the lifestyle of the infamous metropolitan liberal elite. They discover, instead, a reality that is cramped, precarious, and impossibly expensive. London’s recent graduates may secure the flashy job titles they crave, but many will find themselves jammed into dingy flatshares that eat most of their immobile salaries. As for buying your own place one day? Without help from rich parents, you can keep dreaming. That reality is now visible in data that shows high and rising migration out of London. The UK’s Office for National Statistics said that in 2018, a record 340,500 people moved out of the city. Only immigration from abroad is maintaining a steady population in the UK capital. A similar story is playing out in NYC, L.A, and other major US cities.
  • But a middle-class flight from western cities would present challenges, too. Cities, with their densely packed populations, are more energy efficient. And whatever the power of online collaboration, evidence shows that throwing millions of clever young people together at close quarters produces a fruitful cauldron of ideas and innovation. Meanwhile, the global trend towards urbanisation won’t end: the UN forecasts that 2.5 billion people will pour into megacities in Asia and Africa between now and 2050.

 

January 2020

  • A Bangkok university recently opened Asia's largest rooftop farm to tackle problems like food security, sustainable energy, urban heat-island effect, and more. Located at Thammasat University, the 236,000-square-foot roof was designed to prevent the flood-prone city from sinking, and is able to hold up to 3M gallons of water in detention ponds. The farm will also be able to grow enough rice for 100,000+ meals to be served on campus in a year. Any leftovers will be composted to fertilise the next crop of rice, noted CB Insights.

 

December 2019

  • Higher skilled jobs are clustering in small numbers of cities. This pattern has played out in the US, Turkey, Hungary and many other places. It is part of the ongoing resurgence of place in our political economies. One key driver is our shift to an intangible economy whose patterns and processes strongly favour local agglomeration into big cities; For example, tech jobs and the wealth they generate are becomingly increasingly concentrated in the US. Since 2005, just five metro areas have accounted for 90 per cent of all US growth in innovation sector jobs.

 

October 2019

  • One of the major problems facing native habitats is fragmentation. As human impact creeps further and further into woods, grasslands and savannas, barriers like roads, agriculture lands and urban development are slicing and dicing natural spaces into smaller and smaller parcels. For decades, researchers have argued that connecting up these conservation areas could help improve species diversity and keep the ecosystems healthier. Now, an 18-year-long published in the journal Science is one of the first long-term experiments to confirm that hypothesis, showing that relatively small habitat corridors can have big impacts on conservation parcels. The paper is based on a highly fragmented habitat found in the American South. In 10 locations, a team restored 2.5-acre blocks of cleared savanna. Some were connected with 80- by 500-foot corridors of restored habitat. Other blocks were left isolated. Over the last 18 years, they’ve compared what’s going on in the connected habitat with the isolated patches. They discovered that annually, there was a 5% increase in species diversity and a 2% drop in the number of species going extinct and that biodiversity builds over time: by the end of the study period, an average of 24 more plant species were growing in connected habitats than isolated savanna.

 

August 2019

  • A new study by McKinsey predicted that over the next decade, 60 percent of new jobs will be created in just 25 "megacities and high-growth hubs." For the world’s cities, the advantages of size have only grown. Big, superstar cities attract more talent and have higher rates of productivity and innovation than smaller cities. And the people who work in these cities tend to make more money. A study published in the Journal of Urban Economics used detailed data from the British Household Panel Survey to track the connection between the size of an individual’s birth city in the UK and their earnings as a working adult. The minimum sample (after cleaning) is 7,500 individuals aged 16 and older, interviewed multiple times from 1991 to 2009. What they found: the size of one’s birth city does have a sizeable effect on later-life earnings

 

July 2019

  • Some 93% of households in India now have access to toilets, and 500 million people have stopped having to go to the toilet out in the open, according to research published by The Economic Times.

 

April 2019

  • Indonesia has announced an ambitious project to move the country's capital away from Jakarta, which is famously traffic-choked, polluted, and steadily sinking into the sea.

 

February 2019

  • McKinsey explained the concept of “seamless mobility”. Simply defined, seamless mobility uses technologies—from smart traffic lights to autonomous vehicles (AVs) to preventive maintenance—to integrate all sorts of travel. Many of the options are fuelled by low-polluting, low-emissions sources of power. A few examples: seamless mobility means fewer private cars, with people mixing and matching rail transit and low-cost, point-to-point travel in robo-taxis and autonomous shuttles. It means converting parking spaces into parks or gardens. And it means widespread use of AVs, which is expected to result in many fewer traffic deaths.

 

January 2019

  • If current trends hold, the world will include 48 cities with populations over 10 million people by 2035, up from 33 today. Of the 15 contenders for mega-city status, 10 are in Asia, two are in the Middle East, two are in Africa, and one is in Europe. None are in the Americas, noted GZEROMedia.
  • About 65 million apartments, more than 20 percent of all apartments in Chinese cities, are unoccupied, according to a new study. That’s cause for concern in a country where housing, construction, and related industries account for up to one-third of economic growth.
  • A small “big city” can have deeper connections. Cities that are less dense have tighter communities and provide more reasons to actually try connecting with your neighbours, argued Quartz.
  • Technology may eventually promote the re-emergence of cities as important actors in global affairs after a long period of dominance by nation-states. Urban areas already account for 80% of global economic output, and game-changing innovations like ultra-fast 5G mobile networks, noted GZEROMedia.
  • Persistent underfunding of critical infrastructure worldwide is hampering economic progress, and exposing businesses and communities to significant risks, warned the World Economic Forum. Existing physical and digital infrastructure are under stress from population growth and face challenges from cyberattacks, extreme weather and climate change. New infrastructure development is increasingly intertwined with rising geopolitical tensions, and given the potential for a global economic downturn, funding could come under further pressure.

 

December 2018

  • Africa has 21 of the world’s 30 fastest-growing urban areas, where an expanding middle class deals with hideous traffic, noted The Economist, adding that this is fertile territory for food-delivery startups. Tupuca, for example, has been ferrying meals around Angola’s capital, Luanda, since 2016. As well as the likes of pizzas, burgers and sushi, customers can buy coal, petrol, fruit and vegetables - or live animals, such as chickens, pigs and goats.
  • See also key urban innovations identified by TrendWatching: 
    • Bumblebee Spaces | This San Francisco-based startup uses motorized ceiling modules to help homeowners use the empty space below their ceilings. Welcome news for anyone struggling to square city living with convenient access to everyday personal items!
    • Manukau | Talking of maximizing use of space...this New Zealand bus shelter doubles up as a homeless shelter at night. An infrastructure win-win for cash-strapped local authorities?
    • Apotek Hjärtat | This Finnish pharmacy turned its store windows into giant light therapy signs to help locals combat SAD during the country’s long dark winter..
    • Surabaya | This Indonesian city now enables residents to ‘pay’ for bus tickets with plastic waste. A convenient, rewarding approach to engaging citizens in the fight against trash.
    • Dust See | The Seoul City government launched this AR-enabled app to enable residents to ‘see’ pollution levels in order to encourage them to take precautions. An accessible and visual solution to a growing global urban issue.   
  • Further reading:

 

November 2018

  • Rapid urbanisation poses enormous challenges, warned Raconteur. More than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas. According to the United Nations, the proportion is set to rise to almost 70 per cent by 2050. By then the planet is expected to be home to 43 megacities of more than ten million inhabitants. Those in charge of our ever-swelling cities have a huge amount of work ahead to make sure they can cope with this unstoppable influx of people. Radical changes will be required to meet the demands on transport, housing and energy supply, to improve air quality and waste management processes, and to prepare urban settlements for extreme weather and the increased risk of flooding brought on by climate change.
  • More than 50 million urban homes are unoccupied in China, noted GZEROMedia. That’s a vacancy rate of 22 percent, the highest for any country in the world. This problem can be attributed in part to excessive spending by the state to create construction-sector jobs and artificially boost economic activity and in part to wealthy people, barred by the government from moving their money abroad, parking their cash in real estate.

 

October 2018

 

September 2018

 

August 2018

 

July 2018

 

June 2018

 

May 2018

 

April 2018

 

March 2018

 

February 2018

 

January 2018

  • About 40 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, or nearly 400 million people, live in urban areas. Over the next 25 years, that number is expected to double, increasing demand for new and better infrastructure in some of the world's poorest countries, according to Eurasia Group.
  • By 2025, Asia may boast more than 20 of the world's top 50 cities by gross domestic product (compared with just eight in 2007).
  • Cities make up just 2% of the earth's surface but 53% of the world's population live in cities - i.e. for the first time, over half the world's population is urban and the trend towards city living will continue to grow.
  • Recent Shaping Tomorrow research on cities identified trends and implications across a number of domains

 

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2013

  • In Urban world: The shifting global business landscape, McKinsey argued that emerging markets are changing where and how the world does business. For the last three decades, they have been a source of low-cost but increasingly skilled labour. Their fast-growing cities are filled with millions of new and increasingly prosperous consumers, who provide a new growth market for global corporations at a time when much of the developed world faces slower growth as a result of ageing. But the number of large companies from the emerging world will rise, as well, according to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). This powerful wave of new companies could profoundly alter long-established competitive dynamics around the world.

 

2011

  • A new idea for a $300 house held out the hope of applying the principles of frugal innovation to housebuilding. (The idea also created a lively response.)
  • Research suggested that the most efficient way to spend money on the urban homeless might be to give it to them.
  • Time magazine analysed the rise of so-called intelligent cities.
  • Megacities in wealthier countries have much lower growth rates or even declining populations in future, while megacities in other regions of the world are expected to continue growing. 
  • Rural areas do not just have slower growth than cities - their populations are declining in absolute numbers.  Rural populations in developed countries reached their peak long ago, and in many developing countries too, rural populations are going down
  • The UN calculated that there are about 827m people living in slums worldwide, and predicted that the number might double by 2030. This led to a challenge in a Harvard Business Review blog:why not apply the world’s best business thinking to housing the poor? Why not replace the shacks that blight the lives of so many poor people with more durable structures, built of tough mass-produced materials, equipped with the basics of civilised life, including water filters and solar panel, and “improvable” so that families can adapt them to their needs...and what's more, they should cost no more than $300 each.
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