4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

2 minute read

February 20, 2024, 12:00 PM PST

By Mary Hammon

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

Gorodenkoff / Adobe Stock

“The convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and urban planning holds significant promise for creating more intelligent, efficient, and sustainable cities,” Camilla Ghisleni. In an article for Arch Daily, she outlines four applications of urban planning, spurred by “a surge in development of applications, softerware, and other technological systems” tailored to support city design. 

1. Urban design and morphology

Ghisleni cites multiple projects and studies around the world that are using AI to analyze and create plans in a fraction of the time it would take human urban planners and with better results, including grid-based planning, rapid urban prototyping, and digital twin technology.

2. Resilience and climate adaptation

AI can also be used to enhance resilience against extreme weather events and climate change, Ghisleni reports, pointing to Google’s AI-powered tree-cover assessment tool and IBM’s AI tool that calculates the amount of carbon trees in specific areas can store, which can help when choosing species for carbon sequestration.

3. Infrastructure planning

Ghisleni highlights a software called MAIIA (Automated Mapping of Informal Settlements with Artificial Intelligence) that was created by Columbia’s National Planning Department and made available as part of a catalog of open-source tools for urban planning, with the goal of facilitating “automated detection and mapping of informal settlements in various locations, providing efficient and accessible solutions to housing challenges.”

4. Community engagement

Finally, Ghisleni covers applications including virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) to encourage a more participatory planning process, as well as real-time monitoring and analysis of user-generated data for things like traffic management and route safety alerts for women and pedestrians.

Thursday, February 8, 2024 in ArchDaily

Aerial view of homes on green hillsides in Daly City, California.

Depopulation Patterns Get Weird

A recent ranking of “declining” cities heavily features some of the most expensive cities in the country — including New York City and a half-dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

April 10, 2024 - California Planning & Development Report

Close-up of maroon California 'Clean Air Vehicle' carpool lane access sticker on the back bumper of a silver Tesla vehicle.

California EV Owners To Lose Carpool Lane Privilege

A program that began in 1999 to encourage more electric car ownership is set to expire next year without Congressional and state action.

April 2, 2024 - San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Google street view of grassy lot next to brick church with elevated freeway on other side in Houston, Texas.

Houston Supportive Housing Development Sparks Debate

Critics say a proposed apartment building would negatively impact the neighborhood’s walkability.

3 hours ago - Houston Chronicle

Closed black wrought iron gate in front of gated residential community with large palm trees along sides of street.

Friday Funny: Gated Community Doubles Down

The Onion skewers suburbia.

4 hours ago - The Onion

Aerial view of Chicago with river in foreground.

‘Cut the Tape’ Report Takes Aim at Inefficiencies

A set of recommendations from the Chicago mayor’s office calls for streamlining city processes to stimulate more residential and commercial development.

5 hours ago - Block Club Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.