Urban science deals with theories of how cities grow and evolve, how people (firms and households) organise themselves in space (location behaviour), and the resultant dynamic spatial structure of the city that is embedded in the social, cultural, and economic context (adapted from the book Urban Informatics).
Urban science entails analysis of the interaction between three key components of human habitats: the people, the built environment, and the natural environment. The built environment comprises land use and built form, transport systems, and utility infrastructure systems. The natural environment comprises environmentally sensitive areas such as urban forests, mangroves, wetlands, drainage basins, and heritage sites, to name a few. Using analytical tools and techniques (eg, mathematical models of cities to help simulate real-life situations - see SIMPLAN model), urban science aims to improve our understanding of how cities grow, evolve, and function. A better understanding of these components as a complex interconnected system in a city, will inform our actions to improve its existing conditions and better anticipate the future (via the development plan or the master plan of a city).
Applications of urban science cuts across a wide range of disciplines such as urban planning, urban design, urban management, transport planning, urban economics, urban analytics, public health, civil engineering, urban sociology, urban anthropology, social anthropology, geography and cartography, public infrastructure, public policy, and sustainability and climate change. In turn, urban science borrows from disciplines such as ICT, data science, and artificial intelligence and benefits from improvements and technical innovations in these disciplines.
The goal of urban science is to enhance urban planning, urban design, urban management, and related public policy decisions so that it leads to cities that are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.