Strategic Planning and Informed-Decision Making


For the herein presented research we work with the idea of strategic planning and informed-decision making. Thus, we need to understand how strategic planning works and its added value for a sustainable and sustaining built environment with a special focus on energy-relevant questions and answers.



Strategic spatial planning has been widely discussed in literature (Bryson & Roering 1988; Bryson 1995, Healy 1997a, 2004; Mintzberg 1994, 2002 Mastop & Faludi 1997; Poister and Streib 1999; Kunzmann 2000, Kreukels 2000; Albrechts, Healey & Kunzmann 2003; Friedmann 2004), giving us the awareness that there are no single universally accepted definitions (Albrecht 2006) as the topic can be approached from many viewpoints. According to Kaufman and Jacobs (1987) it originated in the 1950s in the private sector out of the need for rapidly changing and growing cooperation in order to plan effectively for and manage the future (in: Albrecht 2004, 746). 

We can summarise strategic spatial planning as a “[…] disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions shaping the nature and direction of an organisation’s (or other entity’s) activities within legal bounds” (Olsen et al. 1982 in: Bryson 1988,74).


Briefly, strategic planning includes directly witnessing, experiencing and observing aspects of behaviours in the real world as a proven way of inspiring and informing new ideas. Careful observation of people’s behaviour and market forces (socio-economic interactions) combined with the urban and regional layout can open up an insight that uncovers a broad spectrum of opportunities that were not evident before (Fulton Suri 2005). This is based on the consideration that for any planning and design strategy we need to start with an original insight about the usage of space (movement, activities, etc.) and its physical layout. The meta-idea is to address diverse levels of the built environment such as transport, demography, businesses, production, services, tourism, health sector, living, leisure, etc. We have to acknowledge that the built environment on all scales (from global to local and vice versa) is driven by various forces that are interwoven in quite a complex manner. Thus, strategic planning is a systemic approach incorporating the elements of a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary holistic approach.


In general, each planning and design strategy can only be vital with respect to the use of the space under scrutiny. In order to achieve sensitive and appropriate handling of the above-mentioned forces for sustainable and sustaining planning interventions, planners must not only analyse the factors of transport, market forces, land use and people’s behaviours, etc. but also understand them in their singularity as well as in their mutual interaction, embedded in the built environment on both a local and global scale (system-environment paradigm within the field of system theory (Luhmann 1996; Bäcker 1996).


A strategic planning approach serves to realise a sustainable and sustaining planning strategy. Let us recall that sustainable planning is concerned with developing strategies to reduce the use of resources, increase economic efficiency and improve integration of social aspects (i.e. pedestrian-friendly environments, well-balanced public and private transport modes, efficient street networks; land use; movement economy: access for all to jobs, shopping, services, health care, culture and leisure) (Czerkauer-Yamu et al. 2010).


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In summary, the benefits of strategic planning are (selected and adapted from Bryson 1988, 78):


- Clarify future directions

- Make today’s decisions in the light of their future consequences

- Develop a coherent and defensible basis for decision-making

   (see further: informed decision-making)

- Exercise maximum discretion in the areas under scrutiny/development

- Solve major spatial problems

- Deal effectively with rapidly changing circumstances

- Build expertise


Based on this background and requirements, it can be seen that concepts, models and simulations (2D, 3D, 4D) are important, as all of them (bundled) contribute significantly to the formulation and exchange of spatial ideas. These visualised ideas address the users of space to obtain a further in-depth interpretation in order to reach the next level of a more specific and realisable interpretation (awareness-raising process) (Voigt 2005).


Strategic planning is also linked to the idea of spatial planning support systems. By summarising the story of PSS, Batty explains the added value of planning support systems:


“I had always thought the term “Planning Support Systems”, abbreviated to PSS, had been coined by the father of land use modelling, Britton Harris [...]. Until I asked him, that is. In response to a paper [...] in summer of 1987, he told me that someone in the audience who he cannot quite remember actually coined the term, referring to “planning support systems” as the constellation of digital techniques (such as GIS) which were emerging to support the planning process (Batty 2003, 2).


Hence, Batty explains that the unknown originator of the term planning support system defined it by analogy to its predecessor term “decision support system” (DSS), (Batty 2003). Yeh summarises PSS as a combination of computer-based methods and models that support planning functions. PSS not only serve as a decision support system for decision makers, they also provide the tools, models and information used for planning (Yeh 2008:7). Klosterman adds an interesting thought when he says that the increased concern with issues such as global warming, urban sprawl, and environmental degradation create an increased demand for computer-based analysis and forecasting tools (Klosterman 2008:85). In general, PSS has the ability to visualise complex problems and future solutions embedded in a certain approach.