Land use models can help you make good decisions about how we use the land that we have. This article explains how they work, and how to use them.

You chose to live where you do. What’s the impact of that?

Have you ever stopped to think about where you live? Maybe you moved in because it’s a nice neighbourhood, with plenty of parks. Maybe it’s close to your work, or just around the corner from your favourite bakery!

But when you stop and think about it, you probably at some point made a choice to live where you do. So did your neighbour, and so did everyone else in your city.

Now, stop and think, what is the impact of these choices?

Land use models help us understand the impacts of our decisions

Where you choose to live, work, and play contributes to the evolution of a city. So, too, does urban planning.

The choices and plans we make drive land use, and each has quite important impacts. For example, two regions  might focus on one of either the environment or population growth. One of them will preserve green space, whilst the other is likely to be cluttered with high rises. Both of the areas will vary greatly. Each one will have different economies and social structures.

We model the use of land now to understand the impacts that our choices will have on the future.

The land use model aims to:

  1. Capture individual decisions
  2. Output the impact of broad scale plans.

The model’s output shows those impacts in different areas. Such areas include the economy, environment, and social factors.

You might have tried this yourself if you have ever played a game like Sim City.

What do land use models look like?

Land use models don’t feature 3D graphics (yet), but do include a cell-based structure. The model I am using for my research, Metronamica, captures many drivers. The model includes infrastructure, the environment, interactions and plans across the region.

Figure 1 shows you what a typical simulation looks like:

Illustration of a land use model.

Figure 1: Metronamica at work, illustrating the evolution of land use through time.

The output map is then used to assess the future impact. That impact can be economic, social or environmental.

How land use models are applied

This type of modelling can be seen at work in a previous article. Graeme Riddell gave us an in-depth example about Adelaide. In it, he covers five potential future versions of Adelaide based on different scenarios. We use Metronamica models for each realisation to assess the impact of each one.

This is just one of many potential applications. Currently, I am working on making such models more accessible to the public. I am developing an automatic calibration method, which will allow for more direct application.

If you’re interested in my research, or would like to learn more about land use planning, please email me.