Insight into future urban architecture, smart, flexible and constantly changing over time

Recently, Arcadis, the world's leading design and consulting for natural and build assets, released its annual "International Construction Cost Index" (ICC) report. Among the 100 global cities surveyed, Beijing and Shanghai ranked 83rd and 88th, respectively, while Hong Kong and Macau had higher construction costs, ranking 3rd and 11th, respectively. The ten cities with the lowest construction costs are all located in Asia, most of them from China, including Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

The survey of "Arcadis’ International Construction Cost Index 2020 " covers 100 major cities of the world on six continents. This year's report points out two major industry challenges: firstly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry is highlighted, and secondly, while planning for the industry to achieve a carbon-neutral future, it needs to rethink its ability to respond to climate change.

Regarding the selection criteria, Glenn J. Lutz, Chief Executive Officer of Arcadis Asia, said, "Arcadis’ ranking of construction costs in 100 cities is based on a survey of construction costs, a review of market conditions by an expert team. Therefore, the cost difference represents the difference in specifications and the cost of labor and materials, rather than a significant difference in building function. The international construction cost index refers to data provided by market experts. This includes labor costs (salaries), construction material costs, and property costs. Costs denominated in local currency have been converted to US dollars for comparison but purchasing power parity has not been considered."

This year's COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world, causing the global economy to suffer a severe setback. After it rages, if the local government of the city wants to stimulate the economy in the future and let the economy recover as soon as possible, what new infrastructure construction needs to be strengthened? "From past experience, when government stimulus is needed, large infrastructure projects are often one of the important investment choices. This is true in many Asian markets, especially in China, where infrastructure prioritization is expected to continue for decades. Hong Kong has indicated that it will continue to invest in reclamation to meet the challenge of land shortage, especially the Lantau Tomorrow vision, and the further expansion of the MTR.” Glenn J. Lutz continued, “In Singapore, the emphasis on coastal resilience will lead to For new design and construction opportunities, the government is expected to draw on the experience of other well-known coastline protection programs, such as the Netherlands and New York. In some emerging markets such as the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, it is expected that the government will continue to modernize the existing transportation system Investments, including railways, highways and airports, enable them to better compete on the global stage and attract more foreign investment and talent."

Due to the pandemic, the demand for health care and medical facilities in various cities has increased. "We also want to see, especially in China, these facilities can achieve first-class standards." Glenn J. Lutz said. In addition, as the population ages, many cities are already facing pressures that cannot meet long-term and continuous facility maintenance needs, which will drive new development. "We also anticipate that more new private educational institutions and higher education institutions will emerge, usually in a cooperative relationship between Western educational institutions and local educational institutions. The demand for multi-purpose development projects in Asian cities is also continuing to grow. Developers are seeing that the integrating of homes, offices, shops, restaurants and cafes will reduce commuting time and enhance people’s living and working experience. The best example is Singapore’s Changi Airport, which opens in 2019. The airport hub is better connected to the city center, providing a large number of services, making it a travel destination. This development is commercially meaningful for those who want to invest and attracts a target audience."

While many cities face the same challenges, every city has its own unique ‘personality’ which we see in the planning and  scrutiny that goes into every aspect of the cities design and in Glenn J. Lutz’s view it’s difficult to find one common feature in every Asia city. "Some cities have been unable to meet the needs of the growing population. The rapid urbanization process has put more pressure on these cities. Therefore, many cities are facing the problems of land shortage, housing shortage and overcrowding. There are still more challenges in terms of mobility and the need to adopt technology to support people to move more smoothly around cities. This transformation has prompted infrastructure projects to be almost fully implemented in Asian cities. However, each city chooses to meet in its own unique way to address these challenges. At a broader level, people are paying more and more attention to the environment and the need to address climate change. This is reflected in the policies related to architecture and transportation, and in the vision of urban construction centered on human experience: to create the space people want to live in."

Throughout China, the city’s construction costs are still very competitive, which can attract investment. Glenn J. Lutz explained, "As shown in the International Construction Cost report, compared to other Asian regions, the construction cost of Chinese cities is the most competitive. This advantage is mainly driven by the availability of resources and labor and the government’s support for urbanization. In addition, the Chinese government, developers, and ordinary people pay more attention to environmental issues and the need for sustainable construction. Similarly, cities in China have begun to adopt new technologies to operate more efficiently. Whether it is car-sharing applications, internet connections, or smart building technologies, China’s innovation continues to grow rapidly."

The concept of sustainable development leading the development of a low-carbon economy is a hot topic in the world today. In China, while green consumption has become a new trend of consumption, as an important sector of the national economy, the topic of energy conservation and environmental protection in the construction industry is also continuing to rise, and green energy conservation and environmental protection construction has become a new trend in the development of the industry. As a member of the World Business Council for Sustainability, Arcadis defines sustainable development as meeting current needs without affecting future needs. This also applies to architecture. Across Asia, Arcadis is working with customers to help them make the best choices in the design and construction of new buildings, including ensuring seamless and efficient integration of offices, homes, retail and services. Last year, the Hong Kong Green Building Council appointed Arcadis as a "smart city" consultant, responsible for formulating guidelines and strategies to optimize the performance of new and existing buildings, and support Hong Kong's "smart vision" and sustainable development. Arcadis has also been commissioned to support some of Asia's leading developers in creating their vision of a future smart city, all of which are centered on sustainable development.

When we asked how to integrate the concept of artificial intelligence into urban construction and architectural design in the future, Glenn J. Lutz said, "One of the focuses is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in generative design, which uses AI in scaling and automating design iterations under given constraints, and applying 'upstream' tools in urban planning, giving options and solutions during the overall planning or conceptual design stage. Then, at the detailed stage of component design, it is also applied downstream. One of the exciting aspects of this field is the use of generative design to design tall timber buildings, which achieves huge decarbonization and sustainable benefits. It is also worth considering how to apply artificial intelligence to data analysis, and then bring benefits to the digital management and operation and maintenance of cities, communities or buildings. This increasingly involves the integration of sensors and communication infrastructure, smooth operation. It also lays the foundation for artificial intelligence applications, optimizes asset maintenance mechanisms—providing cost, efficiency, and security benefits—and improving asset application and performance. Similar methods, including sensors and large-scale data analysis, are also emerging to enable urban planning People, city leaders, and asset operators to better “operate” the entire city, such as the movement of people, traffic conditions, etc.”

The reason why their work is so unique is because their style is not single. Arcadis ensures that all designs are meaningful to the local culture and community and have an in-depth understanding of the people who will use these spaces and incorporate their needs. This means going beyond environmental efficiency and performance, focusing on the health and well-being of the ultimate people while at the same time, understanding what is important for developers to create a successful and viable asset. “What we see now is pushing more multi-functional development projects all over the world. We provide a variety of products that serve the community in one place. For example, the development of the Shenzhen Huigang Shopping Center project, which integrates the hotel, restaurant and retail experience by CallisonRTKL.”

Future architecture, creation flexibility, and projects that can change over time are undoubtedly the most important considerations in architectural design. Therefore, when design teams are designing buildings early, they must ensure that they can adapt to future trends that we may not know about. "At present, development projects still allow a lot of parking space, but we expect that as driverless cars and carpooling become more common, this situation will change in the future. Similarly, we need to consider the balance between private and public space. The demand for private space is increasing, and the allocation and use of public space are also increasing. When we design buildings now, the living units are usually smaller, but there is more space for public facilities. Looking at the office of Arcadis in Hong Kong, we will give priority to public areas and meeting spaces rather than separate desk spaces, which not only supports a more collaborative culture, but also improves the efficiency of our employees and offices."

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Glenn Lutz

Chief Executive Officer, Asia +852 2911 2000 Ask me a question
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