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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The Effect of Racially Segregated Urban Form on Social Equality: A Spatial Study of Cape Town, South Africa

The legacy of apartheid has led to the segregated urban development of Cape Town, South Africa. This has left previously disadvantaged people without access to basic public infrastructure. The government’s response in the form of its Spatial Development Framework (SDF) has fallen short on equalising the scales: it lacks implementable interventions and prioritisation of resources, and it  generalises solutions to the heterogeneous city’s characteristic wards. 

A novel methodology is developed using geographic information systems (GIS). This numerically evaluates the success of the spatial standards proposed by the municipality. The study goes on to analyse the extent to which unequal spatial accessibility exists within the landscape of the city. Finally, this analysis highlights the gaps within the SDF and suggests more effective policy changes. 

The study uses GIS tools that are valuable in the process of urban development as they can provide feedback, monitoring, contextual understanding, and comparative or measurable indicators.  

The analysis reveals that the monocentric nature of the city limits disenfranchised people from accessing economic opportunityFewer people living near to transport corridors indicates less access to public transport for moderately disadvantaged and very disadvantaged residents (who live far away from these corridors). The application of the methodology developed reveals that hospitals, police stations and green spaces are significantly less accessible to moderately disadvantaged and very disadvantaged wards. Fire stations and education facilities exhibit the best accessibility scores across all wards. The study suggests context-specific urban planning to highlight the relationship between socio-economic indicators and spatial indicators. It recommends incorporating qualitative metrics into spatial standards and guidelinesIn addition, it suggests an assessment of the risks and consequences of service provision and therefore the relative importance of its demand. 

The study can be validated further by repeating its application in several contexts and applying it temporally. 


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.