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ARUP: Digital technology a catalyst to building liveable, sustainable & competitive cities


Cities that are able to organise inter-connected city data and exploit the power of digital technology will be able to create new forms of value and thrive as liveable, sustainable and competitive cities, said experts at Arup, the leading global engineering and design firm.

Fergal Whyte, Director and Group Board Member of Arup and Tong Veng Wye, Principal of Arup Malaysia and Member of Arup Australasia Region Board shared the latest on city thinking and the opportunities and challenges of digital technology adoption in urban areas at a recent media briefing on Rethinking Cities: Unlocking The Promise Of Digital.

Arup takes an innovative approach to every aspect of city development and improvement, bringing together technical expertise, new funding and policy instruments, backed by research into the relevant socio-economic trends.

Whyte stressed that while smart initiatives are underway in urban centres around the world, most cities have yet to realise the enormous potential value from fully-integrated, strategically-designed smart city development programmes.

“Cities rely on a complex web of systems and services to survive and thrive. We must be able to extract actionable insight, not just analytics. Digital technology allows cities to open up new value chains, spawn innovative applications and information products that make sustainable modes of city living and working possible. Infrastructure and public data would enable cities to optimise operations, engage with citizens to co-create better places and conserve resources,” said Whyte.

Cities decline if they don’t plan holistically and diversify in a proactive manner. Tong said that Arup is able to contribute value in Malaysia with its wide expertise supplemented with strong local knowledge gained from Arup’s more than 50 years’ presence in the country.

Arup Projects in Malaysia include:

  • PNB 118 (The new tallest building in Malaysia upon completion)
  • Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE) (The Malaysia Books of Records for the largest column-free subterranean ballroom and the largest rooftop recreational park in Malaysia
  • Second Penang Bridge
  • Penang International Commercial City (PICC) (One of the first master plan in Penang to consider digital as part of its strategic design)
  • Rawang Bypass
  • IKEA Cheras (Green Building Index (GBI) Gold and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification)
  • Kelana Jaya LRT Line Extension
  • Klang Valley MRT Line 2
  • St Joseph’s Novitiate heritage building (Designing double basements under the 88-year-old heritage building)
  • Vortex KLCC
  • Vipod KLCC

Whilst we are cognizant of the nation’s current fiscal constraints, infrastructure continues to play a key role in helping cities in Malaysia function and progress. Arup can help in two areas – the first is to define, develop and appraise infrastructure projects in robust, affordable ways, having clear outcomes and demonstrable value and the second, which is linked to the first, is innovative financing and funding of projects. -Tong Veng Wye, Principal of Arup Malaysia-

Across the world, Arup has been leading the development of appropriate land value capture mechanisms for transport infrastructure projects that work within the local context. For example, Arup developed a digitally based strategic decision support tool for metro expansion in Greater Sydney. “We believe this approach can be adapted for Malaysia and more widely across ASEAN,” Tong said.

Digital technologies are also available for complementing asset management (management of equipment and infrastructure) that improve and lower the cost of maintenance as well as extend the useful lifespan of infrastructure.

Traditionally, Arup in Malaysia is known mainly as building engineers (civil, structural, geotechnical, mechanical and electrical) however Arup Malaysia is increasingly integrating its services with the wide services available within Arup globally across every aspect of the built environment.

Arup is responding to the focus on city-wide challenges and opportunities by integrating advisory services in strategy development, planning, finance, economics, operations and asset management with their key strengths in design, engineering and implementation – all delivered in a cities context.

“Our aim is to enable city governments, urban communities, infrastructure providers, developers and investors to determine their own futures rather than simply reacting to those external pressures placed upon them. With Arup’s CityModelling, a design tool developed to create a virtual model of the whole city area, helps us understand issues such as traffic congestion and flood areas, and visualise the future built environment,” Whyte said.

Arup’s approach to city focuses on:

  • Putting people at the centre of design and planning;
  • Developing each city’s ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ infrastructure;
  • Brokering the relationships that get projects delivered;
  • Providing skills and knowledge and bringing relationships and persuasiveness;
  • Aligning with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and New Urban Agenda.

Find out more about ARUP and the work they do here

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