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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
A framework for designing sustainable urban communities
Keywords Cybernetics, Economics, Governance, Property rights, Urban areas, Communities
Purpose–The purpose of the paper is to show how the sustainability of urban settlements can be improved by treating as a variable the design of property rights: to realty, corporations, and currencies, and the communication and control architecture of communities.
Design/methodology/approach–System science shows how the resulting increases in the richness and variety of communication and control channels improve the governance of urban precincts. The new variables also provide a way to integrate the design of the built environment into the design of its governance architecture. The scope of orthodox economic analysis is extended to include the value of assets and liabilities to provide additional feedback signals. This more holistic economic framework increases the richness of the “semiotic” channel of social communication and control that complements those based on senses, words and prices.
Findings–The analysis reveals self-reinforcing feed-forward and feedback channels between the use and maintenance of the built environment and its governance architecture not available in less holistic design frameworks.
Practical implications–The paper identifies the need for urban planners to extend their discipline to become governance architects and how the knowledge of system scientists can be applied to improve the design of capitalism.
Originality/value–A new design paradigm is identified that allows improvements to be introduced in the ability of towns or suburbs, to become self-financing, self-governing political units. The paradigm identifies how capitalism can be designed to become more efficient, equitable, responsive, and democratic.