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Urban growth modelling and simulation

Learning from the past, applying in the present and dreaming of the future

Our backgrounds and circumstances influence the way we see and experience cities. But one thing remains true of cities: there is always a buzz of interactivity of some sort, be it in business transactions, leisure activities or the process of moving about. Cities are complex systems and governing cities is, unsurprisingly, a complicated matter.


As cities grow, they become increasingly complex in terms of economic systems, social structures and geopolitical considerations. Different role players, acting individually and collectively, give rise to the emergent patterns of the city – traffic congestion, housing shortages, and deficits in service delivery. Factors like natural disasters and climate change add to the dynamic, complex character of cities.


So, how do planners and decision-makers plan cities in a way that will make them sustainable? How do they ensure that the outcomes they intend will be achieved? And how do they test the likely impact of policy interventions?


One of the tools at their disposal is urban modelling, in which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been investing for several years, adapting a simulation model developed in the United States, UrbanSim, and applying it in a local context. Urban growth modelling is essentially a tool to facilitate coordination and prioritisation, taking account of the fact that different role-players in the city make disparate decisions, which influence the major issues that our cities face. The CSIR’s work on urban growth modelling has been from the perspective of various role-players, including government.


Website References

Built environment


City planning


Economic growth


Human settlements







Social facilities

South Africa



Urban and Regional Dynamics

Urban growth


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