Most people now live in cities. In the next one hundred years, cities will rapidly grow in size and complexity. Now, more than ever, there is a need to assess the future impact of engineering constructs before they are built. Ensuring a building is structurally sound, or that a water pipeline system will carry a certain load is not enough: engineers must be able to assess the sustainability of their designs in terms of the triple bottom line. Environmental, social and economic indicators must be assessed and balanced.
Australia’s cities are of great concern. Melbourne’s population of 3.8 million is projected to grow by 1.2 million over the next 20 years and by 3 million over the next fifty years (ABS, 2008). Building and managing these cities in a sustainable fashion poses a significant challenge. Complicating the scenario is climate change. In the past decade, the stream flows supplying water to Melbourne have reduced by 40 to 60% (Australian Government, 2008). So, where does Melbourne go next? How can the problems of such a growing city be dealt with into the future?
Until recently, integrated assessment of environmental, economic and social indicators within a single system has occurred on an ad hoc basis. Only recently has the technological capacity emerged to enable multiple indicators to be visualized and analyzed at a detailed level over a large study area. We propose a new software platform, MUtopia, which will use the growing spatial data infrastructure, a range of environmental modeling technologies and contemporary engineering theory to enable the sustainability of future planning and engineering constructs to be tested and the outcomes to be visualized and communicated. This paper reviews the necessary characteristics and available strategies for implementation of an integrated urban modeling and visualization platform.