Though Surrey didn’t win the Intelligent Community of 2015 award (Congrats, Columbus, Ohio!), before the ICF Summit in Toronto this month, we asked co-founder John Jung about Surrey’s strengths, the importance of sustainable infrastructure and the value good design brings to a community.
1. How are communities going to succeed without durable infrastructure?
If you go around the world there’s a lot of infrastructure that’s not very durable. Just like good governance, you need to have a sense of confidence in infrastructure.
Infrastructure is the platform that we all work from. Communities that have durable infrastructure will attract talent and investment.
Some companies feel that they can take advantage of places that have bad infrastructure as long as there is a labour or environmental arbitrage to benefit from.
As soon as a place gets a reputation for having crumbling infrastructure, people will not have confidence in that community. However, how a community responds to infrastructure problems maintains that confidence. It gives people a sense that the authorities won’t just let a place fall apart.
Part of the intelligent infrastructure applications that are being put into cities is predictive. We’re trying to find out which cities around the world are doing smart infrastructure.
2. Explain the importance of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and planning in the economy of a community.
Coming from a planning and architecture background, I know how important it is. You’re trying to attract talent and retain them.
Most of the things I spoke about earlier you can’t see, but a well designed community you can see. You can tell that a community is healthy by looking at the physical evidence of parks, walkability and well designed buildings.
Architecture, landscape architecture and urban design are the face of the community to all investors and talent. It’s the brand and image of a community that draws people. People remember a community by its architecture.
However, the strength of what took place in Silicon Valley went beyond the physical. When I first visited Silicon Valley, there wasn’t much to see, except for parking lots and expressways.
In London, Tech City is an area where low rent attracted a lot of tech companies and startups. You have a Bohemian type of environment that is attractive.
Things don’t necessarily have to be well designed for innovation to take place. A manifestation of the physical form is great, but there needs to be underlying strengths in innovation.
Waterloo has not only been attractive for tech startups, but it created a whole innovation system. They have actually renovated a lot of older buildings to be part of their innovation district.
3. What makes Surrey an intelligent community?
All we can do is have our analysts work with a city to be a Top7. Then, Robert Bell (Executive Director of the Intelligent Community Forum) validates what they’ve said in their application. We meet with people, and talk to others, not just the people they tell us to talk to.
In 2008, Surrey held an event that developed the Smart Surrey Strategy. They came away with the 2008 Sustainability Charter. Now they spend money on a regular basis, growing their Innovation Boulevard.
Surrey was a completely new applicant. They’re growing by 1000 new residents per month. They want to have a community of one job per resident. They’re developing a complete community.