Technology Division Smart Cities Awards

2020 APA Technology Division Smart Cities Awards

Deadline for entries: February 28, 2020 | 11:59 p.m. PT

Do you have a smart city project or initiative that advances the planning profession and supports the strategic goals of the APA? If you do, the Technology Division of the American Planning Association wants to recognize and celebrate with you!

The goal of the APA Technology Division's Smart Cities Awards is to recognize and celebrate communities that are using technology to be intelligent about their growth, quality of life, inclusivity, sustainability, and resiliency.

A jury panel of planners, technology industry professionals, and academics will evaluate all eligible nominations based on the guideline criteria below to select the award winners. The award recipients will be invited to receive their award and showcase their smart cities Project at the Technology Division’s Reception at the 2020 APA National Conference in Houston, Texas, April 25–28, 2020 (NPC20). Award recipients will also be recognized through multiple channels, including newsletters and social media.


Please direct any questions to either Michelle Stephens, AICP, the APA Technology Division Smart Cities Award Coordinator or Tom Coleman, AICP, Chair of APA Technology Division.

Call for Nominations — Full Version

Awards Nomination Form

Previous Winners


Honor Awards

RegenCities Initiative

The RegenCities Initiative (Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill LLP) developed a new systems-based methodology for urban planning and design referred to as "Health Topography." The RegenCities tool functions as a type of urban MRI for communities that combines traditional census tract data with the ever increasing amount of open and big data and analyzes the information through five urban systems: built, natural, infrastructure, socioeconomic and cultural.

The tool aggregates the data and represents it to create a graphic map that pinpoints areas of abundance and scarcity within communities. Planners, urban designers, and architects can use this layered Health Topography map to better understand correlations and develop regenerative strategies to address issues by leveraging scientific research outside the traditional disciplines of design and applying innovative solutions that improve the health and well-being of the built, natural, and social environments.


The CommuniDADOS study (National Science Foundation and University of Texas at Austin) addressed the lack of transparent empirical data that measures social, spatial, and environmental impacts of informal settlements. This lack of data limits the ability of residents in informal settlements to participate in the planning processes that change their own neighborhoods. This lack of data also limits the extent to which cities in developing urban regions can claim equitable planning practices and outcomes. As a result, organized community groups in informal settlements are restrained from leveraging for housing and other neighborhood improvements, and public knowledge about the efficacy of development in improving urban livability is suppressed.

The combined use of assessment criteria, evaluation, and the digital tool ComuniDADOS, which provide an interactive map, lays the groundwork for performing scenario planning analysis for futures that better assimilate social and housing needs. While scenario planning and interactive technologies are novel within the field of understanding informal settlements, the tool's use of social, physical, financial, and economic data for scenario planning capabilities is rare for all of planning.

ComuniDADOS has significant potential to calibrate Smart City thinking to the context of Latin America, synthesize the efforts of the diverse actors and institutions involved in development, increase citizen participation and project equity, visualize the fusion of policy goals and diverse user needs, and better align the goals and actual achievements of policies that directly affect some of the world's most vulnerable citizens in and beyond Brazil.

International Riverside Smart City

The International Riverside Smart City project (AECOM Urban Analytics) is a comprehensive master plan for a 74-square-km (18,285 acres) area in North West Chengdu, China. This project was commissioned with a vision to create a world class innovation hub bringing together high tech-industry (both manufacturing and R&D), the region's top academic institutions, and a high-quality living/working environment that incorporated the latest concepts of smart cities.

To implement this vision, AECOM developed an urban design inspired from the region's natural setting and historical connections to water as well as planning insights from successful innovation hubs from Silicon Valley, Boston, and other locations. The plan incorporated the use of "smart planning" — a performance based, data-driven urban design process that used measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to provide an iterative performance feedback during design development of a high-performing, sustainable, and livable environment.

Another highlight of the plan was the development of a comprehensive "Smart City Framework" that guided the plan towards integrating smart infrastructure, both physical (utility and transportation networks) and digital (wireless, iOT sensors etc.), and various smart technologies that leverage data captured from the digital infrastructure to improve the quality of life in the city.

Merit Award

Chula Vista Smart Cities Strategic Action Plan

The Chula Vista Smart Cities Strategic Action Plan (City of Chula Vista, California) was created and adopted to serve as a roadmap that outlines priorities and guides the city's smart city efforts. The action plan was developed through a collaborative process across city departments and represents the collective vision of city leadership, department heads, and key stakeholders in the community and region. The action plan consists of four goals that are supported by 10 objectives and 39 initiatives.

The process of developing the action plan began with a comprehensive analysis to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the city's smart cities efforts. The city engaged Madaffer Enterprises to work closely with city staff to conduct individual interviews with all department heads, including police and fire. The meetings intended to capture critical input from departments to ensure a collective process in defining the city's smart cities vision and action plan.

The city also conducted a public opinion survey with Chula Vista residents to gather input on smart cities priorities to also ensure community input on the development of the action plan.


Resilient Networks NYC

New York City

Submitted by Resilient Communities, New America

Resilient Networks NYC is a multi-stakeholder partnership operating in six Superstorm Sandy-impacted neighborhoods to build and maintain local wireless networks. In each neighborhood, New America is supporting a local community organization as it trains local residents as "Digital Stewards" to conduct outreach, work with local businesses and leaders, and design and install local public WiFi. When telecommunications systems are functioning normally, the networks will serve as public access to the internet. Because commercial networks often fail in emergencies, however, the networks also feature redundant connections, local hosting, and backup power sources. This design will allow the networks to function as response and resilience organizing platforms in emergencies, enabling community-based organizations to communicate with each other, with local residents, and with first responders, even when other systems fail.

Corridor Housing Preservation Tool

Various Cities

Submitted by Elizabeth Mueller, PhD, University of Texas at Austin

As fast growing cities attempt to channel growth to transit corridors, redevelopment has the potential to displace transit-dependent low-income renters. The Corridor Housing Preservation Tool was developed to enable local and regional governments to assess conditions along transit corridors and within neighborhoods and act strategically to preserve existing rental housing and to foster coordination among housing, transportation and other infrastructure investments. The metric allows for the comparison of corridors and neighborhoods in terms of the benefits that living in that location provides to low income renter households (in terms of access to jobs via transit), the scale of potential displacement (affordable units vulnerable to loss), and current development pressure. The Corridor Housing Preservation Tool is available for use through the open source scenario planning software, Envision Tomorrow (ET). The new tool uses publicly available datasets and integrates outputs from ArcGIS and Envision Tomorrow. It has been used to inform planning processes in Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Analysis has also been conducted for Denver and Portland, Oregon. The tool, related datasets, and training materials are now available to planners and university faculty and students at no cost.

WebCode by re:code LA

Los Angeles

Submitted by re:code LA team (City of Los Angeles Planning Department)

re:code LA is a five-year project to comprehensively revise the City of Los Angeles's Zoning Code. WebCode, a key component of re:code LA, is an online and mobile-responsive interface for the City of Los Angeles's new Zoning Code that will: (1) provide the public a customized experience of the Zoning Code, (2) make the Zoning Code easy to use and access for the general public, (3) provide all the relevant zoning information for a property in one centralized place, and (4) offer enhanced tools for internal coordination and code administration within the City of Los Angeles. Portions of the system have been released to the open source community as a contribution to recent innovations in the delivery of information within the planning profession.