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Insights What are the trends shaping the future of urban planning?

According to The World Bank, 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban spaces by 2050, and further research and estimates have equated this figure to close to 7 billion people. It’s clear more people around the world are living in urban spaces, which could be for several reasons, including more job opportunities, easier access to health care systems and exposure to different cultures. As a result, there will be a greater need for improved infrastructure, green spaces and transportation.

AtkinsRéalis offers engineering, procurement and construction services to a range of companies in various industries. We understand the importance of urban planning and working as a group - which includes  Atkins, Faithful+Gould, and Acuity - we create endless opportunities and build sustainable solutions to help clients meet their goals. With the increasing population, urban planning will play a huge role in sustainable development. Urban planning increases people's well-being and sense of belonging and reduces carbon emissions. Below, we explore the key urban planning trends that are set to have a huge impact on the way cities are managed and developed in the future.


Mobility and urban planning have always been interconnected. As cities have grown, urban planners have had to respond to the demands in travel, as well as create suitable infrastructure for new modes of transport, such as autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles. When urban transport systems are poorly designed, this can lead to a range of threats, such as air pollution, road traffic injuries and further dangers to human health. That’s why there’s now a lot of investment in mobility choices to compensate for all the different ways people like to travel in urban areas. For example, as electric vehicles have been on the rise, there has been an increase in EV charging infrastructure. According to research, there will be 1.3 million public charging stations by 2025, and then a further 2.9 million by 2030. Above all, mobility and planning are continuously evolving to support the needs of commuters.

Green planning

One of the most prominent trends in urban planning is green infrastructure – otherwise known as green planning – which is the strategic design of multi-functional spaces that deliver environmental benefits and a great quality of life. Today’s urban spaces are now facing pressure from climate change, growing populations and a lack of natural space that creates a healthy and sustainable environment. Urban planners are increasingly focused on green building applications and sustainable development. Therefore, eco-friendly districts and neighbourhoods are starting to gain momentum throughout the world. They support healthier lifestyles and water conversion and ensure more aesthetic environments. As many cities look to decarbonise, the importance of green spaces will no doubt have a huge impact on the future of urban development and planning. 

Data-driven urban spaces

With the rise of smart cities, urban planning will likely be much more data-focused in the future. Through data and analysis, urban planners can gather accurate information about a city’s resources and the type of infrastructures that will be required to improve living arrangements. Predictive analytics, for example, allow urban planners to create virtual models of infrastructure and transport networks to gain new insights, which help them to design the best systems to reduce traffic and pollution. Data-driven technologies allow urban planners to gain a holistic understanding of a city. Therefore, data-driven urban spaces and smart cities will most certainly continue to evolve.  

Blue Zones

Blue zones are another emerging trend in urban planning that supports healthier, more resilient communities. Blue zone areas were born from a desire to help people live longer. These longevity hotspots and blue zone principles are being implemented by many urban planners in their design practices to improve human health. The importance of blue zones lies in their ability to cultivate a more positive atmosphere. For example, creating more walkable spaces and more opportunities for people to cycle, are key to successful blue zones. It’s a very human-centric approach to urban planning that balances the relationship between sociability and the natural environment.

Let AtkinsRéalis support your career growth in the built environment

AtkinsRéalis has worked on a range of challenging projects on a global scale. Our goal is to engineer a better future for our planet and its people. We’re here to support you at any stage of your career, whether that’s in transportation, cities and development or industrial and manufacturing AtkinsRéalis is always eager to find the best talent and we’re able to provide professionals with opportunities in multiple markets.

We have significant experience in helping others with their urban planner careers and building careers. Now’s the time to view our urban planner vacancies and join the talent community, or sign up for job alerts. Also, contact our team for further information.