People walking in a city park - we help create brilliant places to live; People walking in a city park - we help create brilliant places to live;

Inclusive cities

Designing and developing cities that work for everyone

Designing and developing cities that work for everyone

In the world of urban planning and design, expectations are rising. People expect more of the human environment, they want decisions about their communities to embody a shared vision of the future.

Increasing equity and inclusion are among the most pressing challenges facing cities, exacerbated by climate change. We must do all we can to make cities work for everyone. ” Richard de Cani Richard De Cani Cities, Planning and Design Leader

Covid-19 disruptions created a reckoning for cities and what we want from them. Social groups and activists are stepping up and demanding change to the status quo they experience daily on their streets. For practitioners and clients alike, there is an opportunity to align environmental, economic, and social considerations and take a more enlightened approach to city development.

Responsible, progressive, inclusive

Whatever terms or language are used, ‘greater equity’, ‘increased inclusion’, or ‘social value’, we take time to understand the deep connections and interdependencies between people and their environment. By taking account of people’s behaviours, preferences, needs and aspirations we can develop the most inclusive and beneficial design outcomes. 

Inclusion isn’t a push-button process. Our ethos is to bring everyone into the process; that means clients and developers, architects and occupants, commuters and operators, cyclists and drivers, walkers and wheelchair users, closer together. For our teams, it means being a translator, a listener, a collaborator, and always ready to learn and adapt. This is how we develop cities where everyone sees their priorities recognised in the built and natural environments they call home.


How we help you

Our teams of urban planners, designers and researchers engage with communities to develop schemes and projects that address many urban priorities:

Cities for women

For women and girls, navigating and participating in city life in safety and confidence can be hard. There are many factors at play from cultural barriers to physical ones, like urban lighting or access to public transit. Our researchers are helping clients to bring these insights into their service design and infrastructure choices.

Download our Cities Alive: Designing cities that work for women report

Cities for children

With car filled streets and endless competition for space, when cities develop, children’s social and leisure needs are often overlooked. We have worked for years with organisations like the Real Play Coalition to help develop child friendly schemes that enable a city’s youngest inhabitants to benefit from access to safe, active and nature-based experiences and travel.

Learn more about nature based play

Cities for all ages

With human lifespans growing, and countries facing demographic extremes of both youth and age, cities have to increasingly accommodate the needs of different age groups. We have explored the design, infrastructure and experiential implications of an ageing society, helping cities to respond inclusively across planning, services and the wider social fabric.

Download our Cities Alive: Designing for ageing communities report

Accessible cities

There is growing recognition that cities don’t function when they take a simplistic view of people’s physical, sensory and cognitive abilities. Our design teams specialise in developing inclusive design interventions that enable everyone to navigate, participate and prosper in their cities.

Learn more about our approach to accessible design

Urban equity planning

There are many social equity issues to tackle across America’s cities, from decarbonisation of social housing to reconnecting communities affected by historical disinvestment issues. Arup is also helping city authorities to plan and develop transit-oriented urban development, bringing affordable housing back into the centres of towns and cities.

Learn more about our work on the Potrero Bus Yard joint development

Recognising the needs of indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples have too often had overlooked needs within the community and its urban infrastructure. In Australia we have been working on projects that address First Nations’ communities priorities in planning and land definition – longstanding issues that have shaped their ability to thrive.

Discover our work on culturally inclusive healthcare for Māori populations in New Zealand

Inclusive economic planning

Thriving cities enable everyone to participate in the economy. We work with city administrations to identify ways to widen participation in work, social care and develop opportunities for promising businesses and markets to grow. Our strategies tackle financial exclusion whether it be experienced by older or less abled communities, different racial or cultural groups. They also embed socially inclusive measures and interventions within wider urban climate adaptation proposals, ensuring a just transition for all.

Learn more about our economic planning service

Race and equity

Our cities face many social equity challenges. The historic legacy of the built environment continues to reinforce racial inequities to this day; examples include discriminatory zoning policies, historic neighbourhood disinvestment, and the over-exposure of vulnerable communities to environmental hazards. Urban planning and city development have the power to address these issues, by prioritising the needs and listening to the voices of our cities’ most underserved communities.

At Arup we take a contextual approach, working with city authorities to focus on community-led outcomes that enhance equity and produce balanced environmental solutions, ones that improve community health and quality of life for all. One such initiative focuses on unlocking affordable housing in city centres, particularly through the creation of transit-oriented development and walkable neighbourhoods, which have the potential to foster physically and socially connected communities.

Our approach: engaging with stakeholders and partners

At Arup, we collaborate with politicians, CEOs, community leaders and many others to explore local equity or social value issues, address them systematically and develop a more cohesive future. Together we shape policy making, developing inclusive design frameworks, defining equity goals, and improving organisations ESG performance in enduring ways. Our global footprint means we can share the best ideas from the widest range of cities and cultures. Whatever the context, our goal is to produce outcomes that are sustainable, accountable and human-centred in every dimension.

Our approach is to put stakeholder engagement at the centre of projects’ development, ensuring community needs shape the DNA of any scheme, policy or design. To do this, we work in partnership with a number of global and local organisations supporting them with specific expertise to sharpen our insights and effect on the ground. Often our partnerships are research driven, where our work reveals new insights or address longstanding issues and needs. Groups like C40 Cities or the Resilience Shift have built up detailed local knowledge of countries, regions and cities’ needs.

In all this work we draw on the full range of Arup’ expertise in place making, urban infrastructure, masterplanning, people movement, lighting and many other relevant fields.

Find out more about our partnerships