BC Gildenhuys & Associates – first South African company to win international award for city planning
BC Gildenhuys & Associates and the City Planning Department of the City of Ekurhuleni were awarded the Commonwealth Association of Planners Award for Outstanding Planning Achievement in the Commonwealth for 2022 in the category “Planning for cities and human settlements/plan making”.
First local company to win this award
BC Gildenhuys & Associates is the first South African company to receive this reward. The award is for the City of Ekurhuleni’s Growth Management Strategy (GMS), which is a response to a rapidly changing environment. High rates of urbanisation, growing unemployment and a struggling economy, along with the impact of Covid-19, urged the city council to rethink its spatial planning approach to achieve its long-term development goals.
New strategy needed
The Growth Management Strategy was conceptualised as part of the city’s Spatial Development Framework. Although not a common component in an SDF, the Growth Management Strategy was needed to overcome some of the limitations in the current SDF. The GMS was developed outside the scope of typical guidelines required for developing an SDF, allowing the team to experiment.
The GMS used new and innovative spatial analysis techniques driven by solid data and evidence-based methodologies. The GMS encapsulates the principles of accountable, responsive and responsible governance by setting objectives and fact-based guidelines to measure the city’s development performance, formulating an appropriate response to change and promoting a more sustainable and resilient city form.
Stephan Gildenhuys, BC Gildenhuys & Associates’ director responsible for the project, said that the strategy’s formulation was driven by the view that if they cannot quantify, they cannot measure; and if they cannot measure, they cannot manage. “This is the way forward, and we hope this award will inspire other councils to make this much-needed mind shift,” says Gildenhuys.
The information in practice
The aim was always to base the strategy on reality, to what is happening on the ground and being able to track and assess these changes. They required a solid and reliable base of data. The team also made use of various systems to achieve this. Not understanding where and to what extent change is taking place made it difficult for the municipality to implement its development objectives.
Technique of data integration
Data integration was applied in two main parts, along with the main technical components to enable the strategy:
The whole municipality was divided into 250m² hexagon cells. This was done to integrate and aggregate a variety of different and sizeable data sets for analysis. Because cities and spatial data are geographically diverse, this analysis needed to happen at a fine granularity.
Place syntax analysis: Using the software developed by KTH School of Architecture, at Charmers University a place syntax approach was used to combine the space syntax description of urban environments with conventional descriptions of attraction into a combined accessibility analysis. This made it possible, for example, to analyse and assess the walkability of the road network, accessibility of buildings and how many people are reachable to establish effective service delivery.
Functional growth management areas: A FGMA is a region with similar characteristics from a developmental and service demand perspective. The company could deliver development strategies to the municipality for each functional growth management area.
Concept of compaction: The functional growth management areas were derived from various spacial scenarios. A preferred spatial scenario was selected to achieve a more compact and sustainable urban form.
Preferred sustainable scenario: The preferred spatial scenario was used to test policy parameters in terms of land use mixes and densities to establish how and where growth can be accommodated.
During the development of the CoE Growth Management Strategy, emphasis was placed on the value and importance of data and information to improve decision-making and support spatial planning. The preferred development scenario provides the city with a benchmark to track development and adapt its strategies accordingly to achieve its strategic development goals.
BC Gildenhuys & Associates was responsible for all the technical work in the seven phases of these long-term projects.