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Mission smart cities

Mission smart cities


The expansion of towns and cities invariably claims more and more open space resulting in urban sprawl. Urban sprawl is the rapid expansion of the geographic extent of cities and towns by using green field land on the outskirts of towns and cities.

Greenfield land is undeveloped land in a city or rural area either used for agriculture or left to evolve naturally. Brownfield land is any previously developed land that is often not currently in use. The projects on the unused lands where there is no need to remodel or demolish an existing structure are called Greenfield projects. The projects which are modified or upgraded or reused are called Brownfield projects.

The use of Greenfield land for shopping malls, commercial zones, and housing tracts has significantly increased over the past three decades mainly due to increased use of cars and ever growing mobility. At the same time, there is an increase in Brownfield land in the cities due to economic changes and other factors. This trend has resulted in loss of green space and agricultural land on the outskirts of urban areas and unused and underutilized land in urban areas.

What is Urban Redevelopment?

These Brownfield lands in urban areas offer opportunities for Urban Redevelopment because they are often well integrated into existing infrastructures due to their former use.

Urban Redevelopment is any new construction on a site that has pre-existing uses. These Urban Redevelopment projects can be small or large ranging from a single building to entire new neighborhoods or “new town in town” projects. Other terms sometimes used to describe redevelopment include Urban Renewal or Urban Revitalization. Urban Revitalization does not always involve redevelopment as they do not always involve the demolition of any existing structures but may instead describe the rehabilitation of existing buildings or other neighborhood improvement initiatives.              

Why is Urban Redevelopment Necessary?

The ultimate goal of Urban Redevelopment is to meet future land use needs through the maximum use of previously developed urban land and minimum use of land on the outskirts of cities and towns. In order to have sustainable urban growth and prevent urban sprawl, underutilized brownfield lands in the cities must be developed using various Urban Redevelopment strategies.

Advantages of Urban Redevelopment

  • Boosts the economy by creating jobs and lifting property prices
  • Improves the environment and creates a safer, healthier space.
  • Makes development easier because vital infrastructure (drainage, electricity, roads, transport networks etc.) Already exists   
  • Provides many environmental, social and economic benefits by recovering desirable locations, allowing for smarter growth through urban intensification, using unsightly areas for building developments, reducing car usage and commuting.
  • Reduces loss of countryside and land that could have agricultural/recreational use.

Urban Redevelopment Strategies Some strategies are:

  • Urban infill on vacant parcels that have no existing activity but were previously
  • Constructing with a denser land usage, such as the redevelopment of a block of townhouses into a large apartment building.
  • Adaptive reuse, where older structures are converted for improved current market use, such as an industrial mill into housing lofts.

Urban redevelopment is often aided, enhanced and boosted by various Government initiatives, policies, funding/financing and land acquisition options.     

Urban Redevelopment in the Indian Context

India is a part of the global trend towards increasing urbanization in which more than half of world’s population is living in cities towns. 31.16 per cent of India’s population live in urban areas as per 2011 Census. They contribute to more than 50% of the country’s GDP and 90% of the taxes. For Indian cities to become growth oriented and productive and to ensure that economic growth is sustained, it is essential to achieve a world class urban system. This will require huge investments in infrastructure and services for overall development and upgradation of the infrastructure and services.               

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India, has estimated that there is a requirement of investment in urban infrastructure to the tune of 39 Billion ( 39.2 lakh crore at 2009-2010 prices) over the next 20 years. The approximate percentage
of funding for the following infrastructure facilities would be:    

  • 44 per cent for urban roads
  • 20 per cent for water, sewerage, solid waste management, storm water drains, streetlights
  • 14 per cent for traffic and transport related infrastructure
  • 10.5 per cent for urban renewal including redevelopment of slums
  • 2.5 per cent for capacity building for better urban governance
  • Remaining 9 per cent for other infrastructure facilities

Considering the huge estimated requirement of investment, the Government cannot rely only on Central, State and Local Government funding. Therefore, the Government has developed policies to utilize the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) models to access financial resources from the market, and induce the
private sector to participate in urban development programs.   

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has also initiated the following schemes for urban development using a combination of infrastructure development, urban redevelopment and urban revitalization strategies and funding strategies:

  • Smart Cities Mission
  • Urban Transport
  • Swachha Bharat Mission
  • Cleanest cities in India

Opportunities for the Construction Industry in India’s Urban Redevelopment

Some of the opportunities for the Construction Industry are:    

  • Latest trends and technologies can be used for providing cost efficient and sustainable infrastructure facilities.
  • The new construction on Brownfield sites can utilize green building technologies, zero waste strategies to achieve maximum energy efficiency and sustainability.
  • Training for highly skilled and specialized jobs required for the construction industry can be enhanced.
  • New methodologies can be adopted for turnkey and other projects.
  • The PPP models can be used to partner with other industries and the Government for participating in Infrastructure projects.
  • A multidisciplinary approach utilizing the skills of architects, urban planners, economists, sociologists, environmentalists and the Government for planning, executing, delivering and maintaining infrastructure projects can be developed.
  • Public Participation strategies can be utilized for public input and participation in infrastructure projects.

The Construction Industry will be greatly benefitted with the investments made for infrastructure and services. Overall Urban Redevelopment will create a “Win Win” situation for the Construction Industry.

Laxmi Nagaraj is an Urban Planning Expert, Project Manager and Architect with over 32 years of experience in Planning Departments in Maryland, Virginia, California in USA and the private sector in USA and India. The focus of her work has been Smart Cities and Development, Comprehensive Development Plans (CDP), Master planning, Transit Oriented Development (TOD), Capacity Building, Integrated and Holistic Land use and Transportation, Housing including Affordable Housing, Urban Economics, Sustainable Development, Green infrastructure, Growth Management and Urban Design.

She has made presentations at Smart City Conferences in Bangalore, Pune and Davangere (selected Smart City) and as a guest speaker in many institutions in Bangalore.

One of her major accomplishments in the US was the successful completion of a master plan for a redevelopment area that transformed a predominantly retail area to an area where people could live, work and play with parks, pedestrian spaces and higher densities. The project was part of a panel discussion on successful citizen engagement at the American Planning Association Conference in 2011. For the past few years in Bangalore, India, Laxmi Nagaraj has been involved in various projects that have transferred some of the global best practices to the Indian context.

Laxmi Nagaraj’s recent consulting assignments in Bangalore, India include smart city reports, sustainability frameworks, solid waste management strategies, development standards for affordable housing and urban planning. She has published research papers on Smart City Development and Sustainability and has also published independent research reports at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore on land uses for new metros, transit oriented development and affordable housing in the Indian context.

Laxmi Nagaraj is currently teaching Architecture as an Associate Professor in Bangalore. Laxmi Nagaraj has a graduate degree in Urban Planning from California, USA and an undergraduate degree in Architecture from the Sir J.J. College of Architecture, Bombay, India. She is a member of the American Planning Association (USA), American Institute of Architects (USA) and Council of Architecture (India). She is a US Citizen and a PIO card holder in India.


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