With expanding urbanisation, the cities of tomorrow are upon us

Technology is changing the world we live in and impacting the way we live and work in a variety of way and industry leaders speaking at FIDIC Berlin 2018 believe an interdisciplinary approach needs to be central in creating the cities of tomorrow.

Gavin English, managing director of IMC Worldwide, opened the session by saying there will no doubt be engineering obstacles in creating smart cities but innovative thinking and the right governance is crucial to achieving the desired cities of tomorrow.

“Cities are about people, consultation of their needs and desires are paramount to prevent imposing a clinical design,” English added. “We all know cities are essential to national, regional and global growth so this will mean more buildings, mobility, clean air and improved convenience for city dwellers.”

When deciding what our cities will look like moving forward, Thomas Birtel , Strabag CEO, stated it was useful to identify three mega trends which define business development and the environment. These being urbanisation, energy and sustainability and digitalisation.

With 54% of the global population living in urban areas and this figure expected to rise to two-thirds by the middle of the century, Birtel spoke about the $57 trillion needed invested in infrastructure by 2030 to cope with economic growth.

Benot Clochoret, CEO of Artelia, emphasised the challenges of mass urbanisation and creating the city of tomorrow. He said implementing ideas would be “extremely difficult and demanding” but also exciting with the need for engineering brains never being more in demand due to the difficulties that politicians and planners may face. 

Artelia’s CEO predicted the development of smart infrastructure would take place in a way that means infrastructure will be adaptable to a range of uses. Policymakers when designing tomorrow’s world will need to develop projects that are increasingly efficient, harmonious and sustainable, according to Clochoret.

Alexander Jan, chief economist at Arup, continued the discussion by questioning the funding of infrastructure projects as the need for more rail and metro lines grows with the population increases.

He highlighted the need for more interventions in the more densely populated cities in order to ensure the quality of the services in a city. With greater demand comes greater competition for funds to build schemes so Jan asked how this might change in the future.

While state funding will always play a part, the economist used the example of Crossrail with property developers and owners providing 30% of costs to development. 

“Different sources of funding harnessed together makes it harder for governments to cancel projects. By connecting people who are benefitting from a project with the people that are paying helps the acceptability of a scheme,” Jan said.

Finally, Frank Steinbacher, CEO of Steinbacher-Consult, pointed to the example of the largest electric vehicle charging station in the world that his company has been involved in the design of.

The electric vehicle charging station includes 144 charging ports which allow for more than 4000 cars to be charged in a single day, after a small German company ploughed £25m into.

He said that tackling issues like the environment and sustainability could be done by “diversifying knowledge into new directions to deliver solutions” and that sites like the one being developed in southern Germany was being duplicated on a more national level.

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