Cities and Pandemics: Can We Virus-Proof Cities?

June 2020

Cities will need to focus on four key areas in mitigating the effects of future pandemics: urban mobility, urban design, the built environment and supply chains. Each aspect has been called into question during Coronavirus (COVID-19) with extensive changes needed if cities are to become more virus proof in the future. The report takes a deeper dive into adaptations cities should make post-COVID-19 and some of the permanent changes that may follow suit.

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Key Findings

Health crises are nothing new to cities

Cities have historically been subject to numerous health crises. COVID-19 presents an opportunity for cities to implement new and innovative measures in response to future epidemics and pandemics.

Urban mobility

With public transport becoming less popular, cities need to direct greater resources into pedestrianising and making urban areas more accessible to bicycles. Some cities have actively deployed pop-up bicycle lanes, while others have banned car travel to increase the space for walking.

Urban design

Cities should not focus on maximising population density. Instead, cities should build with nature in mind by providing citizens with easy access to green spaces for recreational and therapeutic purposes.

Urban buildings

Buildings should focus on investing in health screening technologies such as thermal imaging cameras at points of entry. Some cities are mandating the use of such devices in malls, restaurants and other public amenity buildings.

Urban self-sufficiency

Due to highly intertwined supply chains, cities need to become more self-sufficient in the production of essential goods. For example, vertical farming has grown in popularity during the pandemic, as it brings food production closer to its consumers.

Cities in the long term will be different

The long run will see cities change considerably in terms of mobility, buildings, urban design and supply chains. For example, more people working remotely could reduce demand for consumer mobility and could in turn advance growth in e-commerce. This could spur the rapid development of autonomous deliveries which have been put to practice in some markets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introduction

Scope
Key findings

Cities and COVID-19

COVID-19 will make some permanent changes to city life
Cities have been subject to improving health for centuries

Virus Proofing Cities: Urban Mobility

Urban mobility: more personal, low density and sustainable mobility

Virus proofing cities: Urban mobility

More cycling and less public transport use
Wheels’ self-cleaning technologies can reduce viral transmission

Virus Proofing Cities: Urban Design

Urban design: striking the balance between density and open space
Singapore’s therapeutic parks increase available open spaces
More pedestrian and cycleways in car-centric Milan

Virus Proofing Cities: Urban Buildings

Urban buildings: more health monitoring at points of entry
Thermal detection cameras in Abu Dhabi
Pop-up Nightingale Hospital shows the importance of flexibility

Virus Proofing Cities: Urban Independence

Urban independence: goods produced closer to the consumer
Local vertical farming firm reports growth for local produce
New York becomes self-sufficient in producing face shields

Long-Term Impact on Cities

Future urban logistics turning to autonomous deliveries
Smart cities to become more relevant as a tool in fighting pandemics
Remote working may prompt de-urbanisation
More cities to follow the “doughnut” model of economics
Business takeaways
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