Led by Professor Simone Taffe, this research program aims to empower citizens and urban policy makers with new data and analysis, with the overall aim of improving governance and removing barriers to enable the transition to smart cities. We will use digital technologies to create cities that raise the standard of living for all, while promoting sustainability and reducing human impact on the environment. 

Our research priority is to offer alternatives to top-down decision-making around urban development decisions, and we do this by creating new digitally empowered design and social-enquiry mechanisms that bring together professional expertise with non-expert end-user perspectives. 

We’re interested in how urban data and the Internet of Things can influence:

  • urban planning regulations and design under uncertainty
  • offer new modes of community engagement
  • provide platforms for internet-enabled multi-stakeholder communication
  • system performance monitoring and reporting
  • support for civic leadership, social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility.

This program is organised around three intersecting streams that draw from each other and inform our research projects: 

  • Sustainable Cities (urban resilience; climate change planning; circular economy; sustainable mobility design)
  • Healthy Liveable Cities (urban epidemiology; urban ecology ethnography; nature-based solutions; active neighbourhoods)
  • Equitable Thriving Cities (urban econometrics; housing governance; urban diversity and migration; indigenous knowledge and placemaking; mobile phone storytelling).

Image credit: Maria Gabriela Giurizzato Cremona

Current projects 

This project is a partnership with the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon LivingVictorian Building AuthorityMaster Builders AssociationTAFE NSWSydney Coastal Council Group and Swinburne Pathways and Vocational Education (PAVE) Sector. It involves applying the principles of mobile learning and gamification to develop a learning platform for building practitioners that can also be used to curate a portfolio of compliant work — a Building Quality Passport. 

The building sector needs to decrease energy demand by 30 per cent by 2030 to contribute to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Building practitioners will need to undertake training in order to meet new performance requirements aimed at achieving this target. However, research has shown that building practitioners are largely disengaged from professional development, particularly when it requires downing tools to learn to comply with new provisions of building codes.

Our aim with this platform is to improve building code compliance rates alongside building energy performance as well as to raise the engagement and value of professional development by adding value to compliance through education and marketing.

With project partners Canterbury University and the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, this project involves developing a web-based system — the Envision Scenario Planner (ESP) tool — to sketch planning redevelopment options for an identified renewal precinct. 

Once cadastral data has been imported into the system, lots can be amalgamated and subdivided, rezoned and allocated height limits. Users can then drag-and-drop objects from a library of over 100 precinct typologies, ranging from single houses to high rise apartment buildings and even shops, schools and trees. As a virtual neighbourhood is being designed in 3D, reports are generated, providing users with feedback on over 300 KPIs including embodied and operating carbon, operating energy, water demand, capital and operating costs, transport and a suite of planning metrics. 

Find out more about the ESP tool.

We’re involved in a number of global knowledge exchange, data-sharing and policy analysis platforms that are being developed and managed at Swinburne. These include:

New projects include an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) project to develop new, harmonised knowledge sharing digital infrastructure, and an international collaboration with global cities networks to provide an evidence base on building energy policies for municipalities. 

In this age of largely free and unfettered access to information, it is hard to discern facts from opinions. Policy makers need to navigate, analyse and prioritise a broad range of online resources and data in order to tailor solutions to their specific local circumstances. However, the proliferation of online resources does not necessarily lead to better decision-making or access to trusted sources. More needs to be done to provide a clear and consistent evidence base to support urban policy making and community participation, which is why we’re focused on developing these platforms. 

Completed project

This project was a collaboration with United Housing, a cooperative housing organisation providing affordable rental accommodation to low-income families, couples and singles in the western suburbs of Melbourne. United Housing planned to retrofit eight of their houses with photovoltaic panels, and wanted to understand their benefits and costs as well as the potential for scaling up this program to include all of their managed properties (102 at that point in time). 

Contact the Smart Cities Research Institute

If your organisation would like to collaborate with us to solve a complex problem, or you simply want to contact our team, get in touch by calling +61 3 9214 5177 or emailing scri@swinburne.edu.au.

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