Arup launches VR tool to design child-friendly cities

19 February 2019 3 min. read
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Arup has forged a new partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation to combine their design expertise and knowledge of child development to help improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. The alliance will see the consultancy include Virtual Reality testing to provide a child’s perspective on urban environments, which can be taken into account during project planning.

With the built environment needing to consider a growing diversity of requirements, it has historically been easy to overlook the needs of society’s smallest inhabitants when it comes to project planning. To help change that, design and planning consultancy Arup has teamed up with children's charity the Bernard van Leer Foundation to help designers, planners, policymakers, and development agencies improve the lives of young children in cities, informal settlements and refugee camps around the world.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation is an independent foundation working worldwide to inspire and inform large-scale action to improve the health and well-being of babies, toddlers and the people who care for them. Under the partnership, the two organisations said they hoped to combine expertise in design, planning and early childhood development to create child-friendly initiatives in urban environments. This will involve a new Virtual Reality (VR) tool as part of the initiative, which Arup says enables users to experience "a living… environment from a child's perspective at 95cm tall, the average height of a healthy three-year old."

Arup launches VR tool to design child-friendly cities

Arup's Global Cities leader, Jerome Frost, explained, "Places designed for urban childhoods are the bellwethers for healthy cities. Despite the importance of early years to our personal and social development, the experience of 0-5-year olds has largely been ignored in the design of our cities. But if we design and plan from their perspective, 95cm off the ground, the environments we create can include and bring together people of all ages."

The partnership is the latest move from the business community targeting childhood development and inclusive education, two key pillars of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Arup and the charity will kick off the project by publishing a guide in 2020 for designers, planners, city authorities, and development agencies, looking at the challenges and aspirations of young children, care-givers, and pregnant women.

Michael Feigelson, Executive Director at the Bernard van Leer Foundation, said of the partnership, "We're excited to continue to scale our work to change the way families with young children live, play, interact and move through cities by partnering with Arup, a global thought leader and trusted partner to cities around the world.”

Related: Charity football cup sees Hays consultants raise £3,000 for Action for Children.