Success comes from collaboration and organization.
We can accomplish amazing things when consultants, clients and stakeholders come together, then we go away and work. We schedule project work around regular, intensive working visits over the course of several days or longer. Clients are busy too. They have our undivided attention during work periods, and it helps them more effectively accomplish their goals.
We collaborate to innovate.
On every project, we form a core team of talented consultants to identify and respond to the key questions at hand – experts in transport, market/economic, sustainability, and more – we work with the best international and local partners to provide a balanced range of perspectives. Continuous collaborations with talented designers, engineers and economists spark new ways of thinking about problem solving.
Facilitating a stimulating discussion.
We believe in bringing people together to tackle complex problems. Urban Strategies’ design charrettes are less about presenting, and more about working together with multiple stakeholders – experts and lay people – to analyse, illustrate, design and test solutions. We have developed tools such as on-the-spot 3D modelling to allow groups quickly, iteratively and successfully collaborate.
Sustainable from the inside out.
Responsible and progressive land use planning forms the basis of all of Urban Strategies’ work. Our team has been at the forefront of developing and implementing large site sustainability strategies in a number of master plans. We have planned three LEED-ND sites and have led city-wide Environmental Master Plans. Our internal culture is based on a green model: everything from catering to coffee to paper (100% post-consumer). We use Bullfrog Power, ensuring that our power comes from clean, emissions-free sources. A high percentage of us regularly cycles to work, and we enthusiastically participate in City-run bike programs to encourage a healthier commute. All employees have access to bike and car-sharing and transit for business travel.
A culture of continual learning.
We love to learn and to teach, as a way of ensuring we understand the latest theories and research into city-building and best practice world-wide. Big City Big Ideas is a lecture series that we founded in 2011 to mark our 25th year in business. We invite global planning luminaries to examine big moves taken by cities around the world. We have since hosted dozens of events. Urban Strategists regularly lecture at industry events across the world, and teach planning, design and engagement courses at many Toronto universities.
A Living Laboratory.
The Urban Strategies Academy was started in January 2015 to quickly integrate a number of new design and planning team members. It quickly transformed into a knowledge accelerator and cultural incubator at our studio. Our Academy model allows staff at all levels to teach each other, experiment with new technology and approaches, and collaborate in new ways. The positive impacts – not only for our professional practice, but our social atmosphere – are invaluable. Topics are crowdsourced by staff. Past sessions have included mock debates, analysis of new design theory, virtual reality experimentation, site tours, charrettes, software training and numerous guest speakers.
Show, don’t tell.
We develop appealing and informative graphics to convey complex technical information and address a purpose, such as explaining decisions, soliciting input or promoting an initiative. Our materials are professionally designed, highly visual, and allow us to reach – and hear from — audiences who may not have been able to attend events. These materials include project brands or logos, web sites, interactive mapping tools and surveys, presentations, newsletters, posters, open house panels, briefing notes, and attractive infographics and illustrations.
The critical third dimension.
High quality graphic elements are an important aspect of our projects and are an incomparable way to illustrate the key elements of the concept in its larger urban context. Our model makers are adept at crafting compelling illustrations of developments and master plans. We are able to fulfill all aspects of model making, utilizing architectural physical models for initial sketch model creation, to more detailed and articulated presentation quality models and detailed digital massing diagrams, shadow studies, CAD renderings, animations, and photo-realistic or conceptual renderings.
Insightful Geospatial Analysis.
We frequently use GIS to integrate, store, edit, analyze, share, and display geographic information that informs decision-making and provides new ways of looking at cities and the environment. We are also constantly expanding our GIS capabilities, exploring the potential for new tools and data sources to better understand community dynamics and inform our planning and design work.
Campus Compass® and Community Compass®
Our proprietary Campus Compass® or Community Compass® online engagement tool provides a means to collect a variety of geospatially rich data that can inform project work. Seamlessly embedded into project websites, Compass® surveys feature sophisticated interactive mapping tools, whereby users drop pins, trace paths, and draw boundaries, and also geocode their comments. Qualitative and quantitative survey questions are combined to provide a crucial level of nuance. Flexible survey design can incorporate image-based questions, ranking, and explanatory video. Fully accessible on mobile devices, responses can be projected into a live feed in real time during public events. Thanks to Community Compass®, our team can analyze public feedback and report back to the client and community in an entirely new way.
Reaching an online – and mobile — audience.
We continually use new technology in our consultation strategies, including social media, video, blogging and other tools. Online channels are no longer nice-to-have luxuries, but rather expected components of any serious public consultation exercise. Successful online consultation programs complement face-to-face processes while leveraging social and digital media tools to educate and encourage new kinds of dialogue. By combining our extensive public consultation experience with our skills in communication and facilitation, we have developed an approach to online consultation that leverages the power of new media technologies to generate dialogue, solicit feedback, and educate wide audiences about city building.