LDA Design research

LDA Futures: A Positive Response to a Changing World


We are witnessing rapid change, from population growth and urbanisation to the emergence of new knowledge and technologies. The climate is changing and biodiversity is declining. Pressure is mounting on food supplies and we need to transform our approach to energy, water and other resources.  We also need to advance health and wellbeing and reduce inequality. These are urgent challenges, but they bring opportunities to develop a better society, a more sustainable economy and a positive relationship with the environment.

LDA Futures is our response. We are working with our clients to help deliver positive change and to take advantage of emerging opportunities. By applying our creativity and experience as designers, planners and environmental specialists, our clients are  pushing the boundaries of best practice.

We have completed an initial phase of research with Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute to: better understand the drivers of change and develop practical solutions which add value for our clients.

The big drivers of change

Below we describe a series of  briefings  for those shaping the use of land, development and infrastructure.They highlight the interrelationships between the drivers of change, t he need for new types of infrastructure to drive economic growth. We need to be creative and flexible in our responses, particularly to exponential growth in technology. They show the changing scale of governance, from devolution to supranational decision-making and planning.A key driver is overconsumption of resources and reliance on often volatile global supply chains, andhe degradation of ecosystems to the point where they are no longer able to provide essential services.

If you would like to learn more about LDA Futures and how we can help you please contact Rob Shaw, Director at LDA Design, robert.shaw@lda-design.co.uk

The energy transition

The world is transitioning away from an economy powered by fossil fuels to one dominated by low carbon sources of energy distributed through decentralised networks that incorporate storage and smart management systems. This briefing introduces the major global and UK themes and their importance to projects, planning and decision-making.

LDA Futures -The Energy Transition

Securing solar’s place in society

Solar and onshore wind developers are facing dramatic cuts in support and new planning policy that will change the face of the onshore wind industry. This briefing considers creative solutions and in particular, how the financial value of renewable energy can be increased to enable development to happen without subsidies. It explores how a more strategic approach to energy deployment can bring communities along.

LDA Futures – Securing solar’s place in society

Climate change

This briefing sets out an overview of the global and local context for climate change, and offers some insights into the opportunities and challenges for our clients and others involved in the planning, design and delivery of development, infrastructure and landscape.

LDA Futures – Climate Change

Knowledge and the technological revolution

The revolution in how information is generated, stored and used, together with the sheer volume of data now being produced every day, provides powerful tools for spatial planning and shaping the design and delivery of places and infrastructure. The speed of technologies such as driverless cars and artificial intelligence means that planning and decision-making processes can struggle to keep up.

LDA Futures – Knowledge Technology

Social mobility and equality

In many countries the gap between rich and poor is growing and social mobility is being stifled. Inequality persists, suppressing talent and undermining societal cohesion. Politics is moving away from the centre ground, as those left behind by globalisation and neoliberal economics seek alternative representation. Development, infrastructure and comprehensive spatial planning can all contribute to tackling inequality and fostering social mobility, as can New governance structures, such as combined authorities, Starter Homes or the Northern Powerhouse.

LDA Futures – Social Mobility

Cultural and political shifts

Debates across the Continent about the future of the European Union are asking searching questions about the most appropriate scale of decision-making. Many of the challenges we face as a society are now international, such as climate change, and sub-national, such as economic growth in city regions. In the UK, devolution of powers over decision-making and infrastructure provision is leading to a divergence in priorities and approaches. This briefing, and the accompanying paper by LDA Design’s Spencer Powell, discusses how we deliver sustainable places and infrastructure in these circumstances.

LDA Futures – Cultural Political

LDA Futures – Delivering Sustainable Growth

Population dynamics

Death rates are falling faster than birth rates, driving up global population.  In the UK, decades of undersupply of new homes and a growing population have resulted in an affordability crisis, while a growing elderly population and more diverse social and cultural groups demand new types of infrastructure. The private sector alone will not deliver the scale and pace of change needed to respond to these challenges.

LDA Futures – Population Dynamics

Health and wellbeing

In spite of improvements to health and well-being, threats from disease, poor sanitation and mental health are growing, and new risks are emerging. In the UK  these include chronic disease as a response to poor diets, pollution and sedentary lifestyles; mental health problems and loneliness, particularly among older people. Climate change is likely to add to health risks due to water and food stress, extreme weather and pollution. This briefing explores the importance of strategy and design in tackling these issues and building resilience.

LDA Futures – Health Wellbeing

Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation

Few habitats exist today that have not been artificially modified. Human activity is accelerating biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, reducing the natural world’s resilience and threatening the functioning of society and economies. Interventions such as the Great Fen project in Huntingdonshire can create bigger and more connected habitat networks. Strategic planning and coordinated funding are key. At the local scale, good design underpinned by green infrastructure principles can ensure that development, regeneration, energy and infrastructure projects deliver protection and enhancement

LDA Futures – Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Water scarcity

Freshwater resources are shrinking due to man-made and natural forces, and is further diminished by waste, pollution and unsustainable management. Development and land use have serious impacts on water quality and availability, which can include retention of woodland cover, the creation of wetlands and floodplains, as well as small scale interventions. Focusing on benefits to biodiversity, climate resilience and water management should be a priority in the design of public spaces and development.

LDA Futures – Water Scarcity

Resource depletion and unmanaged waste

Demand for non-renewable natural resources is creating enormous environmental pressures and will ultimately outstrip availability, while vast quantities of waste is left unsustainably managed. UK domestic natural resource production has declined and imports have risen, most notably for energy. Developing indigenous zero carbon energy sources presents huge policy, spatial and design challenges. Effective collaboration between public and private sectors is key. We need to move from a linear to a ‘circular’ economy, which is restorative and regenerative by design, and to introduce nature’s own lessons into design and development through biomimicry.

LDA Futures – Resource Depletion

Food supply pressure

Feeding a growing population is straining the global agricultural sector and the earth’s ecosystems. Overconsumption and malnutrition is steadily worsening. The UK grows around 60% of the food it consumes, but self-sufficiency is declining. Climate change will add further pressure to the system. Many farmers have diversified, but rapid deployment of renewable energy has led to tensions. Decision-makers need to weigh up local and national needs while working with developers and communities to find solutions, such as integrating renewable energy and agriculture.

LDA Futures – Food

Environmental degradation

Deterioration of the physical environment and changes in land use and management are resulting in a loss in quality of the water, soil and atmosphere, compromising essential habitats and ecosystems.  Understanding the carrying capacity of the environment is an important prerequisite for strategic planning, site allocations and design solutions. This can enhance cultural and social value, protect key habitats and help create a narrative that leads to reduced resistance to new development. Pooling of funding can support delivery of green infrastructure, including restored wetlands, floodplain woodland or rewilding.

LDA Futures – Environmental Degradation

Challenging economics

The UK economy has recovered relatively strongly from the 2008 recession, led by the South East and London. Infrastructure is key to economic growth, but much of the UK’s stock is unfit for the challenges we face. The limited appetite to use public debt to invest, together with constrained capital markets and low labour productivity growth, are constraining economic recovery. Bold leadership is needed to mobilise investment. Innovative local authorities, faced with huge budget cuts, and communities are starting to develop their ability to deliver infrastructure through crowd-funding or community ownership, supported by devolution of powers.

LDA Futures – Economics


Below is a selection of publications for download in Adobe pdf format

Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB Climate Change Information & Education Programme

Community Energy: Planning, Development and Delivery

Landmarks – The Design Commission for Wales Landmarks Conference

Burgess Park – World Landscape Architecture