The 5 keys to unlocking the potential of a great city

To help city leaders meet the demands of growth and enhance quality of life for their urban constituents, CH2M has identified five keys to unlock the potential of great cities.

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“We start with a deep understanding of the unique characteristics of the cities we serve. We focus on turning challenges like infrastructure, workforce development and scarce funding into opportunities for sustainable community development, manageable growth and economic prosperity,” says CH2M Business Groups President Greg McIntyre. “In our service to cities of all sizes and stages of development around the world, we’ve developed a set of proven solutions to help cities realize their own great potential.”

CH2M’s 5 Keys to Great Cities provide a comprehensive framework for local leaders to create and implement sustainable development strategies achieving triple bottom-line benefits for social, environmental and economic progress and prosperity. In brief, the 5 keys are:

1. Capacity

The scope and scalability of essential infrastructure systems—water, sanitation, energy, transportation, housing and communication—to serve its population, accommodate growth, and promote wellness and quality of life for all.

Key Facts


of the world's population will live in cities by 2050


people will be within 45 minutes of central London thanks to London's Crossrail

Crossrail is a renewal for London, a new set of heart and lungs for the City. Few people have yet to gauge just what a difference it’s going to make.

John Pelton
CH2M’s Strategic Projects Director for Crossrail and Director of the Programme Partner Transcend

2. Livability

The optimal mix of character, history, culture, public spaces, aesthetics and social services that make a city unique, safe, secure and welcoming to residents and visitors alike.

Key Facts


anticipated visitors to Dubai annually


District of Columbia residents live within a 10-minute walk from the Anacostia River

In the 1980s Dubai was a desert with a port and a few warehouses. Our multi-disciplinary approach allowed us to gain a deep understanding of Dubai Property's challenges, turn them into major opportunities and make their ideas become reality.

Asad Shaheed
Project Director

3. Connectivity

The integration of digital and physical communication networks, data, smart technologies and processes to efficiently connect all community members and services in ways that enhance agility, collaboration, productivity, public health and safety.

4. Viability

The ability to attract diverse talent, interest and investment to stimulate sustained business and economic growth, including essential resources such as a skilled workforce, advanced industries, thriving commercial centers and innovation-incubating universities and technologies.

5. Resiliency

The planning and development of resilient infrastructure and systems that enable communities to prepare for and manage impacts from extreme weather, climate change events and other hazards.

The Urban Movement

In 2014, the United Nations designated every 31st of October as World Cities Day. The day is intended to promote awareness of global urbanization and push forward cooperation among countries in addressing the challenges of urbanization and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.

At the forefront of the urban movement are examples set by great world cities and supported by CH2M:

  • London is delivering visionary public transport programs like Crossrail which will bring an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of the city center.
  • Seattle is reconnecting the city to its waterfront and providing a “front porch” to its downtown neighborhoods, with a focus on public use and development activities that attract people from all walks of life.
  • The Aurangabad industrial smart city development project in India is integrating thoughtful growth principles with green spaces, walkable corridors and smart city communication and connectivity solutions to establish itself as a welcoming, intelligent industrial city of the future.
  • Singapore is converting utilitarian drains, canals and reservoirs into beautiful streams, rivers and lakes well-integrated with the surrounding parks and spaces, creating community gathering points and recreational spaces for people to enjoy.
  • Miami has undertaken an ambitious Ocean Outfall project that will eliminate all wastewater discharge to the ocean by 2025 and future proof the facilities from extreme weather and climate change scenarios.
  • New York is developing an integrated coastal protection system in Manhattan that will reduce the risk of flooding and facilitate access to the waterfront, creating improved public spaces and enhanced natural areas.
  • And Dubai is transforming the environmental, social and economic aspects of the city with a new canal that provides a waterway link from Business Bay to the Arabian Gulf, opening the way for the development of new parks, hotels, restaurants, luxury housing and a range of recreational amenities.

Recognizing World Cities Day, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray views urban services as a foundation for overall social and economic development. “As Seattle continues to see rapid growth, we are working to ensure that growth is equitable by aligning our investments in affordable housing, transit and small business development to create urban centers that connect people to where they live, work and play. In doing this, we are addressing the challenges of affordability and livability, while also addressing racial and economic disparities. Seattle is becoming a model for 21st century cities with a diverse population, a diverse economy and a sustainable vision for growth.”

Adds CH2M’s McIntyre, “What makes a city great starts with humanity at the heart of it. That means doing what’s best for the people as well as the natural environment that sustains us. We’re honored and proud to work with municipalities around the world that are leading the way.”