The Spatial Design Network Analysis software helps architects worldwide design cities that are better for people's health, have lower crime rates and encourage sustainable transport.


  • In China the Spatial Design Network Analysis (sDNA) software was used by Renew A+P Consultants and the Hefei University of Technology to evaluate the spatial design of a major growth corridor in the city of Huainan – safely allowing the accommodation of another 1.2 million people in the city.
  • It was also used by Tongji University Architectural Design and Research Institute to evaluate the accessibility and economic performance of metro systems in Chinese cities.
  • In France sDNA was used by consultants BRS and dEp to prepare a spatial plan for a new town within Paris with 150,000 inhabitants. This included the creation of a 1,400 km detailed pedestrian network model and a location plan for a rapid transit option for the community.
  • In Turkey sDNA was used to study residential and retail development in Ankara and Istanbul, guiding Istanbul's Urban Transformation development agency in a programme aimed at guiding the further development of 75 per cent of the city's structure.
  • In the UK sDNA has been used by engineering consultancy Arup to prepare a spatial strategy plan for Wiltshire County Council. This included a model of pedestrian networks that was used to evaluate alternative town development strategies.
  • The sDNA research team worked with Cardiff University Medical School and the UK Biobank project based at Oxford University to create the UK Biobank Urban Morphometric Platform (UKBUMP) – a nationwide resource mapping the built environment of 500,000 people and linking it to data about their health, to support healthy city planning and public health interventions.
  • sDNA was used by cycling charity Sustrans to model cycling in Cardiff, feeding into the consultation for Cardiff’s Integrated Network Map. This was then used in the implementation of the Wales Active Travel Act, which identifies areas for infrastructure improvement in Cardiff.
  • sDNA is integrated in the design processes and included as services by ARUP and WSP for guiding active travel and masterplanning.
  • The software has 700 active users in the public, private and third sectors worldwide.

“sDNA is a great evaluation method for the analysis and decision-making on different plans in China.” (Guoyan Zhou, director of Renew A+P Consulting, Shanghai)

About the research

City plans and local urban design schemes, especially in rapidly developing countries like China, are often based on very limited research evidence about population, travel patterns and environment, and governments are increasingly demanding more well-founded analysis.

Spatial Design Network Analysis (sDNA), developed by researchers at Cardiff University with ESRC as one of the original funders, is based on the premise that a city's street network can reveal complex information about the way people interact. It is able to predict flows of pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and public transport users around a city by computing the accessibility patterns that determine how they make decisions, and simulating movements around the transport network.

Drawing on this overview, sDNA can then be used to determine how and in what ways the built environment can affect health, accidents and crime, community cohesion, land values and town centre viability. Specific economic measures such as house prices and land value could also be determined by how urban areas are laid out. This means that urban plans can be evaluated for specific outcomes.

sDNA is able to improve the efficiency of the design process, as it enables city designers to model different city layouts and understand what impacts they would have on people and the economy before any investments are made – lowering the cost of the planning process.