What infrastructure do we need for the future?

3 min readMar 13, 2020

As a society, we still think of our infrastructure needs as if we were in the 20th century — private car ownership, a daily commute to work or school, and weekly trips to the shops, even if we want more liveable neighbourhoods where we can walk or cycle to work, school, the shops or the park.

Most buildings are designed to have a lifespan of 50 years or more, and buildings we start planning could only start being lived in 10 years, so we need to design in infrastructure for 2050 now.

We need to plan infrastructure for social & economic trends that could emerge or accelerate between now and 2050 with Covid 19:

  • Change in family, friendship and work structures could affect where & how people spend live and work, affecting how we build housing & commercial space
  • Increase in self-employment and people with multiple care responsibilities could blur boundaries between work & leisure, affecting people’s ability to commute between
  • People could be drawn into pooling their resources with people like them, to save money and belong to a community, creating the need for flexible make/storage/workspace
  • Neighbourhoods could become polarised between affluent adults and poorer families in social housing, creating the need for mixed housing for inclusive communities
  • Ability to use technology and increase in people moving around to work & live could affect how they can look after themselves & each other, creating higher levels of transience
  • Consumer & leisure activities could increasingly be provided “on demand” either online, in public spaces or people’s homes, potentially reducing need for high street spaces
  • Digital transformation could automate jobs in the city centre in finances & management, while changes in tourism could further increase short-term residential lettings
  • Reduction of car ownership could free up space currently used for cars & parking could be freed up for other uses, such as public space or development

What approach to infrastructure should London develop?

1. Infrastructure to create healthy streets & liveable neighbourhoods

Use infrastructure to create 15 minute neighbourhoods where people can walk or ride to school, work, shops, public spaces and public transport hubs

Target infrastructure for specific strategic areas which create economic or social clusters such as innovation districts or campuses

Base masterplans on sustainable travel — greater public transport (including Crossrail), walking & cycle paths, electric cards and reduced car ownership

Provide certainty on investment in infrastructure for public transport and walking & cycling to give organisations confidence to drive culture change amongst their residents

2. Consolidate infrastructure to improve connectivity and reduce congestion

Create transport hubs which co-locate public transport, as well as space for car, bike & taxi hire and parcel pick-ups

Consolidate deliveries to single locations in the neighbourhood which have electric charging points and link to local high street retail to create shorter distance supply chains

Replace car parking space with space for walking & cycling and housing, and for remaining car parking locate to longer term, off street spaces with common electric charging points

3. Plan for future developments & infrastructure to flex to changing needs & opportunities

Ensure design & configuration of buildings & spaces can be flexible to increasing technological change, population growth & climate change

Blend planning uses so physical spaces can adapt to changing needs and allow for greater mixed live-work space

Create requirements for landowners to review how they develop so they adapt & retrofit buildings, streets and other infrastructure to new needs

Improve digital infrastructure to take advantage of improved route planning, traffic management, co-working, car & ride sharing and electrification of cars

Improve rail connectivity for passengers and freight to reduce need for freight transport through the city

What infrastructure do you think London should have in the future?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese