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Urban & Regional

Cities and regions face a multitude of inter-connected challenges in planning for the future.  Decision makers often struggle to address questions such as:


  • How can our region best accomodate growth and development over the coming decades and beyond? What type of development should our region encourage, and where should it occur? How much growth should occur through intensification of existing urban areas, versus development of greenfield lands?

  • Is our growth management strategy well aligned with our region's current and projected economic strengths?

  • How can we formulate coherent, integrated plans for infrastructure - transportation, water and wastewater - to support the continued vitality of our region?

  • How will regional demographic trends (for example, an aging population) affect the demand for social services? 

  • What are the energy use and environmental impacts of alternative regional growth trajectories? What transition periods are associated with impact-reducing strategies?

whatIf? Technololiges has been active in the field of urban and regional growth managment analysis since the early 1990s. We have implemented planning models that enable a holistic, quantitative approach to exploring the types of issues listed above. Our models allow users to interactively create and analyze scenarios via simulation.

We offer the Population and Land Use Model (PLUM) as an application product, as well as custom urban and regional models.

PLUM - Region-Specific Implementation

whatIf? Technologies implements region-specific PLUM solutions. The following steps are typical during a PLUM implementation:

Model Configuration Workshop.

Our team meets with the client to determine how various model options will be configured to meet client needs. For example, clients chose their preferred level of data aggregation, such as the specification of dwelling and employment types.

Data Loading.

Model calibration ensures that a region’s observed historical data is consistent and visible from the user interface, providing a baseline for trend projection. At this stage we load the client’s historical data into the model.

Scenario Creation.

Once loaded, PLUM is a powerful platform for creating and managing scenarios. Creating the first scenario immediately allows the client to navigate input and output data before creating new scenarios. We assist in the creation of the first scenario, typically based on “business as usual” assumptions. 

Training on model structure and scenario creation.

User training is provided.duing which clients become familiar with the model’s structure and logic; and also gain proficiency in scenario creation and debriefing.

Model hosting, software support and updates.

PLUM runs on the whatIf? client-server software platform which may be hosted on whatIf? servers and accessed by clients, securely via the internet, or licensed by clients for in-house operation.  whatIf? provides software support and updates.

PLUM - Overview

The Population and Land Use Model (PLUM) is a powerful, integrated platform for the projection and spatial allocation of population, dwelling units and employment for a given region. Regional planning organizations use PLUM to formulate official plans and growth management strategies; and PLUM-based analyses are the foundation for various infrastructure and service master plans.

PLUM contains a detailed region-wide population projection sub-model, which in combination with base-year building data, creates projections for future new residential and commercial development. Users specify alternate, geographically-detailed land use plans which are then used to distribute regional growth.  Intensification-based growth and greenfield-based growth are accounted for explicitly.  Built on the whatIf? Modelling Platform, PLUM provides robust scenario management, transparency, flexibility and data-interchange with various industry-standard software packages.

PLUM - Model Structure

PLUM sub-models and features include:

Cohort population growth

  • 1-year age groups

  • international, inter-provincial, intra-provincial migration

  • feedback views allow tracking on given population projections for regional totals

  • multiple views available for construction of fertility, mortality and migration projections

Household formation

  • multiple views available for projection of household formation parameters

Dwelling units

  • by dwelling type

  • new dwelling units partitioned into redevelopment and greenfield

  • multiple views available for projection of new dwelling unit shares


  • by employment type

  • new employment floorspace partitioned into redevelopment and greenfield

Land use and development

  • new dwelling units and employment floorspace allocated by geographic zone

Capability to incorporate data on recently built dwelling units and employment floorspace not captured in last historical update cycle

Population allocation

  • population allocated to dwelling units by persons per unit (PPU)

  • feedback views allow tracking of detailed zone population on total projected population

Main outputs as time series


  • dwelling units by zone and type

  • employment floorspace by zone and type

  • population for region, by sex and age

  • population by zone

  • households by zone

Time step and time horizon are client defined

Urban & Regional Custom Models

whatIf? Technologies combines its custom modelling expertise and urban & regional planning subject matter experience to offer custom urban modelling services. Learn more about the whatIf? Custom Modelling Process here.

Urban & Regional Planning Clients

CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Development of MRSFF (Melbourne Region Stocks and Flows Framework) concerned with urban planning and urban energy

Regional Municipality of Waterloo
Development of PLUM (Population and Land Use Model), the WRPF (Waterloo Region Planning Framework), and model hosting services

Regional Municipality of Peel
Implementation of PLUM (Population and Land Use Model) and model hosting services

Office of the Greater Toronto Area
Development of population, land use, transportation demand model for the GTA

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