July 12, 2022

Unlocking Our Urban Futures: A Practical Toolkit for Infrastructure Planning

Calgary downtown bridge

By Evergreen

As Canadian cities and communities respond to calls to “build back better” in a post-COVID-19 era, this is an opportune time to think differently about how we design our cities.

It is estimated that $11-$22 trillion will be invested in infrastructure and real estate over the next 50 years in Canada. To maximize the impact of this investment, it is critical that we understand the changing needs of our cities, and how to make future-ready investment decisions today. Many governments, recognizing the scale of required investment, are now taking steps to understand and address infrastructure needs in more long-term and comprehensive ways. With this in mind, Evergreen launched Our Urban Futures, to explore a new approach to long-term infrastructure and real estate planning using strategic foresight tools.

Strategic foresight provides a range of methods to explore alternative futures and push the horizons of planning for infrastructure and real estate. Drawing from strategic foresight, design thinking and systemic design tools, Our Urban Futures developed regional scenarios used for action planning for three regions in Canada. The purpose of this was to catalyze longer-term thinking to ensure infrastructure and real estate investment decisions are informed by an understanding of the future of our cities, not simply current-day assumptions.

Understanding the value of this approach, Evergreen has translated Our Urban Futures’ process into a model that can be replicated and scaled to additional jurisdictions. Our Urban Futures presents a promising new approach that can ensure this significant investment enables the cities we want in the future.

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Action Plans

Upon completing exercises in infrastructure planning as outlined in the Toolkit, the process then translated insights into action through the development of policy action plans that mobilized vision statements, followed by a policy scan to identify appropriate windows of opportunity to advance change.

Scenario Sets

With a need to build on available data sets, the project explored scenarios of the future in three Canadian regions: Calgary-Edmonton, the Greater Toronto Area, and Metro-Montréal. These scenarios explore how trends might shape our urban regions, and how we expect our infrastructure to mitigate or support our preferred futures.

Trends Deck

The Our Urban Futures Trends Deck: Planning & Building for Canada’s Urban Future is a collection of signals compiled into a broad range of trends. Some are very likely to influence urban regions and their infrastructure and real estate investment and planning, while others are much less so. It is important to consider trends of all strengths and maturity to make informed decisions about the future.

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Influential Resources

Working together, Evergreen and Deloitte researchers sought to assess the level of infrastructure and real estate investment Canada will need over the next 50 years. The outcome was the report Building Our Urban Futures: Inside Canada’s infrastructure and real estate needs. Released in October of 2020, this report set a national baseline projection of real estate and infrastructure investment over the next five decades.

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