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Top 5 Ways to Use ChatGPT For Your Planning —And What To Know About Its Limitations

Do you feel like AI has sprung up everywhere you look? You can't open social media at the moment without seeing think pieces everywhere.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) have already begun transforming various industries, and urban planning is no exception. With powerful AI tools like ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, planning professionals can redefine their approaches and find innovative solutions to persistent challenges

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Here at e-PlanSoft, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of ePlanning software, consistently seeking innovative ways to help our clients make the planning process more efficient and streamlined. This pursuit of innovation has led us to explore the potential of AI technologies like ChatGPT. 

Are you curious about how e-PlanSoft can change how your company does e-planning? The best way to grasp the power of our products is to see them in action. Request a demo today!


What is ChatGPT?

We can hardly discuss how something can be used for planning without clarifying what precisely this newfangled piece of artificial intelligence is. Should we be worried? Is the next Terminator movie upon us?

When you ask ChatGPT what it is, the artificial intelligence model replies:

ChatGPT is an advanced artificial intelligence model developed by OpenAI based on the Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT) series.

The "GPT" stands for "Generative Pretrained Transformer," a language prediction model in artificial intelligence. The 'chat' in its name signifies its primary role in generating human-like text based on given prompts, making it capable of carrying on a conversation in a manner similar to a human.

ChatGPT is trained on a diverse range of internet text. However, it doesn't know specific documents or sources it was trained on and doesn't have access to personal data about individuals unless explicitly provided in the conversation.

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Let's go back to letting the human writers do the talking now, shall we?


5 Ways to Use ChatGPT for Planning

Here are five compelling ways to utilize ChatGPT in planning, followed by a thoughtful exploration of its limitations.

#1: Engaging with the Community

ChatGPT can handle queries, making it an excellent tool for public engagement. Planners can use it to answer frequently asked questions, gather public opinion, or explain complex planning jargon in simpler terms. It fosters a culture of inclusion and open communication, allowing planners to understand community needs better.

#2: Generating Planning Reports

A critical part of urban planning is drafting comprehensive reports covering every project aspect. ChatGPT's ability to generate text, including detailed summaries and analyses, can expedite this process. Feed the AI with the necessary data; it can create first-draft reports, leaving planners with more time for strategic tasks.

#3: Assisting in Research

ChatGPT can swiftly sort through vast databases and resources to extract useful information, providing planners with quick, concise insights. It can even suggest new research avenues or assist in identifying trends in urban development.

#4: Facilitating Internal Communication

Teams can use ChatGPT as a communication tool for quicker resolution of queries and better collaboration. It can also serve as an interactive repository of planning policies, zoning regulations, etc.

#5: Supporting Decision Making

AI can simulate potential urban planning scenarios based on provided parameters. ChatGPT, for instance, can generate narratives around these scenarios, making it easier for decision-makers to visualize outcomes and make informed decisions.


Limitations of AI for Urban Planning

While the potential of ChatGPT is immense, it's crucial to remember its limitations and handle them with a nuanced understanding.

#1: Data Dependence

ChatGPT learns from the data it is trained on, and its outputs rely heavily on these patterns. It cannot independently form opinions or comprehend context as a human would. While this makes it adept at recognizing patterns and making predictions based on those patterns, it also means that any inherent biases or inaccuracies in the training data can permeate into the AI's outputs.

For example, if historical urban planning data exhibit biases, AI might perpetuate them in its suggestions or predictions, potentially exacerbating existing inequities.

#2: Lack of Creativity

Creativity is a hallmark of human intelligence, integral to generating innovative solutions to complex urban planning problems. While ChatGPT can generate text based on learned patterns, it does not inherently possess creativity. It can't devise novel strategies, consider unusual solutions, or think outside the box.

#3: Absence of Empathy

Planning is not solely about buildings and infrastructure; it's about people.

Empathy is crucial for understanding and addressing the diverse needs of a community. AI, including ChatGPT, does not experience emotions or empathy. It can simulate empathetic responses based on learned patterns but cannot genuinely comprehend or relate to human emotions.

This underlines the importance of human touch in community engagement and decision-making.

#4: Confidentiality Concerns

As with any technology handling sensitive data, there are valid concerns about privacy and confidentiality with AI. It is critical to ensure that AI tools like ChatGPT are employed in a manner that respects these concerns. Strict data handling and privacy protocols must be in place to prevent unauthorized access and misuse of data.

#5: Room for Misinterpretation

ChatGPT understands language literally and may sometimes generate responses that can be misunderstood. The nuanced and complex nature of planning and development issues can lead to confusion or misinterpretation.

This underscores the need for human oversight in reviewing and interpreting AI outputs, particularly in contexts requiring precise understanding and clear communication. Looks like we won't be losing our jobs yet!


The age of augmented planners, as heralded by the American Planning Association, is upon us. Tools like ChatGPT promise a future where AI assists human planners, helping them navigate the complexities of urban and regional development.

Embracing AI doesn't mean replacing human planners but augmenting their capabilities to create more sustainable, equitable, and livable communities. But while we harness the power of AI, we should also remain aware of its limitations and work towards mitigating the risks associated with its use.

Learn more about the e-PlanSoft™ products! Request a demo today. 

Request a Demo Today


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