UrbanBEATS has enjoyed a rich and exciting adventure since its early start in 2010. This page provides a brief overview on how the model came to be what it is now and where it is heading.

2010 – 2013 : DAnCE4Water

The DAnCE4Water Concept (Dynamic Adaptation for eNabling City Evolution for Water)

Development of the UrbanBEATS model began as part of a larger European Union Framework Programme (FP7) project known as “PREPARED: enabling change”. One of its work packages entailed developing an integrated socio-technical model that could evolve cities over time and consider socio-technical transitions that lead to the uptake of novel water management technologies. The model was known as the Dynamic Adaptation for eNabling City Evolution for Water (DAnCE4Water). The development of DAnCE4Water was a collaboration between Monash University and Innsbruck University, between engineers and social scientists. UrbanBEATS was part of what was known as the “Biophysical Module (BPM)”, which aimed at simulating the planning and uptake of water infrastructure to meet various objectives. It also defined the broader research context within which Peter M. Bach began his PhD in 2010.

With the broader research context set, a theme and standalone model for the PhD thesis came in late 2012 with the conception of the name UrbanBEATS, the Urban Biophysical Environments and Technologies Simulator, inspired by the original purpose of the model, namely the “Biophysical Module” of a larger framework.

Key Publications:

  • Bach, P.M., McCarthy, D.T., Urich, C., Sitzenfrei, R., Kleidorfer, M., Rauch, W. and Deletic, A., 2013. A planning algorithm for quantifying decentralised water management opportunities in urban environments. Water science and technology68(8), pp.1857-1865. [Link]
  • Rauch, W., Urich, C., Bach, P.M., Rogers, B.C., De Haan, F.J., Brown, R.R., Mair, M., McCarthy, D.T., Kleidorfer, M., Sitzenfrei, R. and Deletic, A., 2017. Modelling transitions in urban water systems. Water research126, pp.501-514. [Link]
  • Urich, C., Bach, P.M., Sitzenfrei, R., Kleidorfer, M., McCarthy, D.T., Deletic, A. and Rauch, W., 2013, October. Modelling cities and water infrastructure dynamics. In Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Engineering Sustainability (Vol. 166, No. 5, pp. 301-308). Thomas Telford Ltd. [Link]

2014: Completion of the PhD

The first version of UrbanBEATS’ model structure

Peter M. Bach completed his PhD in 2014, a year following the conclusion of the DAnCE4Water project. The idea around UrbanBEATS had already been presented at several industry and academic events around Australia and several key urban drainage conferences internationally. The identity of UrbanBEATS was forged and interest from the urban water sector was growing. Thus, began a more rigorous development of a user interface around the model and its widespread testing through a series of bachelor student projects. Validation of the key modules within UrbanBEATS also concluded in 2014 with very promising results. By this stage, UrbanBEATS was seen as a model that could support the planning of Blue Green Infrastructure in urban precincts and was limited (due to the nature of its program code and algorithms) to smaller case studies.

Key Publications:

  • Bach, P.M., Rauch, W., Mikkelsen, P.S., McCarthy, D.T. and Deletic, A., 2014. A critical review of integrated urban water modelling–Urban drainage and beyond. Environmental modelling & software54, pp.88-107. [Link]
  • Bach, P.M., Staalesen, S., McCarthy, D.T. and Deletic, A., 2015. Revisiting land use classification and spatial aggregation for modelling integrated urban water systems. Landscape and Urban Planning143, pp.43-55. [Link]
  • Bach, P.M., Deletic, A., Urich, C., Sitzenfrei, R., Kleidorfer, M., Rauch, W. and McCarthy, D.T., 2013. Modelling interactions between lot-scale decentralised water infrastructure and urban form–a case study on infiltration systems. Water resources management27(14), pp.4845-4863. [Link]
  • Bach, P.M., McCarthy, D.T., Urich, C., Sitzenfrei, R., Kleidorfer, M., Rauch, W. and Deletic, A., 2013. A planning algorithm for quantifying decentralised water management opportunities in urban environments. Water science and technology68(8), pp.1857-1865. [Link]
  • Bach, P.M., McCarthy, D.T. and Deletic, A., 2015. Can we model the implementation of water sensitive urban design in evolving cities?. Water Science and Technology71(1), pp.149-156. [Link]

2015-2016 : Further Development & Testing – First Seed Funding

Linking UrbanBEATS & EPANET

In 2015, the first opportunity to expand upon UrbanBEATS’ current capabilities presented itself with a Monash University Seed Funding. In collaboration with Innsbruck University, the project UrbanBEATS x EPANET sought to integrate UrbanBEATS’ spatial representation and planning of Blue Green Systems with the water distribution modelling capabilities of EPANET. The Seed Fund led to refinement of the model code and spatial capabilities and new insights into coupling existing centralised with new decentralised strategies.

It was also at this time that UrbanBEATS started being tested outside of Australia. In collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley following a research visit by Peter in 2015, the Marsh Creek Catchment case study was setup to understand the extent of work involved in making the model applicable beyond the Australian context. This led to many interesting insights and a conference paper presented at the Low Impact Development Symposium in Beijing, China in 2016.

Interest in UrbanBEATS from the Australian water sector was also growing with beta testers from various engineering consulting companies, municipalities and water utilities offering some time to give feedback on improving UrbanBEATS’ functionality and better aligning it with current workflows in urban water systems planning and management. The research and development team was also bidding for a larger source of funding to undertake a project into planning for future water quality improvement in urban stormwater management.

Key Publications:

  • Bach, P. M., Eisenstein, W., McCarthy, D. T., Hatt, B., Sedlak, D., Deletic, A. (2016). Australian water sensitive planning in the San Francisco Bay Area: challenges and implications for model transferability. 2016 International Low Impact Development Conference (LID2016), Beijing, China.
  • Bach, P.M., McCarthy, D.T., Deletic, A. (2015). Exploring greenfield water sensitive options with the integrated planning-support model UrbanBEATS. 9th IWA Symposium on Systems Analysis and Integrated Assessment (Watermatex 15), Gold Coast, Australia.
  • Bach, P.M., Dotto, C.B.S., McCarthy, D.T., Deletic, A. (2015). Exploring multi-objective water sensitive urban design through integrated modelling. 10th International Urban Drainage Modelling Conference (UDM2015), Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.
  • Sitzenfrei, R., Zischg, J., Sitzmann, M. and Bach, P.M., 2017. Impact of hybrid water supply on the centralised water system. Water, 9(11), p.855. [Link]

2017 : Future Water – First National Australian Grant

The Future Water Project

Development on UrbanBEATS began accelerating in 2017 with the successful funding of two Australian Research Council grants: The Future Water Project and a fellowship secured by Peter Bach. These opportunities paved the way for ramping up development on UrbanBEATS, broadening its scope and improving its utility in practice. By 2017, two PhD research students: Martijn Kuller and Behzad Jamali were well underway to developing their own research strengths. Martijn Kuller worked on the spatial multi-criteria decision analysis tool SSANTO, which comprehensively maps suitability of urban environments for different Blue Green Infrastructures while Behzad Jamali developed rapid flood models to solve a long-standing dilemma on how we could integrate complex hydrodynamic flood simulation into our simplified spatial representations. Whilst both PhD candidates worked outside of the UrbanBEATS sphere, various aspects of their work are now being integrated into the UrbanBEATS ecosystem to improve upon many aspects of the planning-support system.

Apart from major grants, UrbanBEATS was also being used alongside other models such as the next iteration of DAnCE4Water, which had since become part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities suite of tools.

Finally, the year 2017 also marked another significant change as Peter Bach moved to the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology (Eawag) in Switzerland, which has given him the opportunity expand the model’s capabilities and, most importantly, rethink the whole modelling framework. Alongside his Australian fellowship, he began a dual-affiliation research position, spending parts of his year in different continents (mostly being in each continent during the winter months due to mishaps in strategic decision-making, or so the running joke goes).

Key Publications:

  • Bach, P.M., Deletic, A., Urich, C. and McCarthy, D.T., 2018. Modelling characteristics of the urban form to support water systems planning. Environmental Modelling & Software, 104, pp.249-269. [Link]
  • Bach, P.M., Kuller, M., McCarthy, D.T. and Deletic, A., 2020. A spatial planning-support system for generating decentralised urban stormwater management schemes. Science of The Total Environment, 726, p.138282. [Link]
  • Castonguay, A.C., Iftekhar, M.S., Urich, C., Bach, P.M. and Deletic, A., 2018. Integrated modelling of stormwater treatment systems uptake. Water research, 142, pp.301-312. [Link]
  • Guo, D., Lintern, A., Prodanovic, V., Kuller, M., Bach, P.M., Deletic, A., Shi, B., McCarthy, D., Ryu, D., Webb, J.A. and Liu, S., 2019. Future Water: Comparing and contrasting approaches to predicting water quality. Proceedings of 23rd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM) [Link]

2018-2019 : Begin Redevelopment

The revised and current UrbanBEATS Planning-Support System – Revamping the first seven years

After gaining significant experience in his first few months at Eawag, Peter Bach decided that it was time for a full rewrite of the UrbanBEATS model. This decision was motivated by many factors: (1) significant insights into how practitioners and planners strategically think about the problem, (2) advancements in modelling packages, libraries, science, (3) a nightmare source code that would have made its expansion absolute chaos and (4) a growing research and development team who would be using UrbanBEATS over the coming years.

UrbanBEATS was reconceptualised and rebuilt from scratch. Much of the basic model philosophy and concept was adopted from the now-called “Legacy Version”, but enhanced with new modules and placeholders for future research. The first public mention of this redevelopment happened at a keynote given by Ana Deletic at the 11th International Urban Drainage Modelling Conference in September 2018 in Palermo, Italy.

Key Publications:

  • Deletic, A., Zhang, K., Jamali, B., Charette-Castonguay, A., Kuller, M., Prodanovic, V. and Bach, P.M., 2018, September. Modelling to support the planning of sustainable urban water systems. In International Conference on Urban Drainage Modelling (pp. 10-19). Springer, Cham. [Link]

2020-present: Towards Multi-functional Blue Green Systems

The Vision of a Blue Green City – solutions at varying spatial and planning scales. How can we harmonise these to create a sustainable, adaptive, liveable and resilient future city? How can UrbanBEATS support this process?

Following major redevelopments, UrbanBEATS is now moving towards a new and urgent vision: the need to effectively plan multi-functional Blue Green Infrastructure. Whereas the “Legacy Version” had been focussed on Blue Green Systems for sustainable stormwater management, incorporating many other aspects such as urban liveability, biodiversity, urban microclimate and more into a holistic modelling framework is necessary if planners want to design and realise sustainable “Blue Green Cities”. The crux here is for the model to support a planning process where all levels of planning (from high-level planning policy and regulation to local Blue Green Technologies) are considered in an integrated manner and over time.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we still made significant progress in 2020 in understanding how to better assess these different aspects using state-of-the-art approaches from ecological modelling, urban climatology and urban planning. Initial attempts have also been made to integrate a dynamic urban development model into the planning-support to create dynamically evolving cities. We are now in 2021 and UrbanBEATS is supported by a large international research consortium spanning three continents and over 30 people, each working on different projects that will inform the model. Let’s see where the science takes us! Stay tuned!