Embracing the Concept of Smart Cities

By Lynn Pearcey, MBA, Copywriter, AIA Contract Documents

April 18, 2024


Smart cities, once a premise thought to be eons into the future, have arrived, and the signs, often out of sight or touch, are everywhere. From streetlights that dim during low usage periods, thus requiring less energy, to planting trees downtown to cool the environment, the move to make our cities smarter is indeed afoot. Climate change is real, and no matter how harsh it sounds, we’re running behind in the race to save our planet. As is the case with many other segments of life, a lack of awareness and understanding is causing consternation when it comes to embracing the strategy behind the move. Whatever feelings exist within the industry, a recent article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Smart Cities and Construction” points to the fact that for construction professionals, the time to become immersed is now.

So, what are smart cities?

The premise of the smart city concept is simple: Smart cities are urban environments where information, communication technology, and a variety of devices are connected on a network. Through this mix, data is collected and used to help the city run efficiently while better serving the inhabitants. Protecting the environment and improving the quality of life are at the core of the model, and more and more urban areas are embracing them. So, with the increased integration of smart city concepts, the obvious question arises: How will their rise impact the construction industry?

Smart Cities and Construction

 Smart cities have arrived, and in the coming years, they’ll become more prevalent fixtures, dotting landscapes both here at home, and abroad. No matter the size or location, smart cities are powered by an often-extensive array, but necessary, blend of technology – and someone has to build them. That task, as in years past, still falls into the hands of those most qualified and capable: the construction industry.

The construction industry, including contractors, architects, and engineers, will play a critical role in developing smaller cities being targeted and making larger metropolitan areas smart. In some cases, building “smart” will call for construction professionals to shift their business philosophy, most notably infusing technology into their model. Construction is an industry that relies on physical labor to get the job done. That approach works and will always be a central part of construction. But when it comes to smart cities, understanding and embracing technical aspects of the concept, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), drones, software, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a reality all construction professionals must adhere to.  Other qualities the construction industry will need as the smart city evolution continues expanding include:

  • An appreciation for data: Data plays a major role in the construction of smart cities. Data drives the city and for a construction firm, having access to it helps them build a better product. The data that a firm gathers provides guidance on design, which materials will work best, and also gives them insights on patterns that may cause challenges in the future.
  • Flexibility in operations: As mentioned before, technology plays a major role in the smart city evolution. While some are quick to infuse technology into their operations, others still show signs of resistance. The reality is that those willing to become more technical stand a better chance of maintaining relevance in the years to come. Also, these firms will appeal to a larger swath of younger professionals more aligned with technology, a key point to consider as the current crop of leaders ages out. The presence of this generation and their affinity for technology will be invaluable for older firms working to remain viable and newer ones looking to make their mark through smart city construction.
  • Strong leadership: Firms with strong leadership who have an eye for the future will fare well in the smart city construction arena. Strong leaders are proactive in their planning with the approach of a visionary when it comes to detecting growth opportunities and investing their resources in those areas. Operations with those types of leadership mechanisms in place will excel and become the face of the smart city construction movement.


 Smart cities aren’t the future, they’re the present and the construction industry will continue playing a critical role in their growth. The inclusion of these cities is crucial for the expansion of the industry as it works to secure new, younger talent. Furthermore, infusing smart cities into the mix will help construction leaders do their part to preserve the planet and champion the vitally important concept of sustainability.

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 AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.