This is the first in a three-part blog series on how new 3D geo-content is changing the way infrastructure gets built for modern cities.
We’ll be demo’ing our wide-scale, frequently refreshed 3D datasets at Esri Australia's User Conference, Ozri, in November. To book a meeting with us at Ozri in Sydney (13 Nov), Brisbane (16 Nov), Melbourne (21 Nov), get in touch.
POPULATION GROWTH IS PUTTING THE PRESSURE ON INFRASTRUCTURE
With Australia’s population set to hit 25 million this year, escalating population growth and increasing density in Australia’s cities is a hot button topic. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the world needs to build 1,000 structures per day and invest $3.7 trillion annually in infrastructure through 2035 to meet the demands of a burgeoning global population. Infrastructure Australia estimates that by 2031, demand for public transportation in Sydney will increase by 55%, and in Melbourne by a whopping 121% in the same time period.
The growth of big cities and urban density can be a huge financial boon; cities drive the world economy and have done so for centuries. Large cities generate around 75% of global GDP, rising to 86% between now and 2030. The Acadis sustainability and mobility rankings put cities such as Singapore, London, Seoul, and Zurich at the top, evidence that high population density can go hand-in-hand with sustainability and liveability. The key is right-sized infrastructure, investment in public transport systems, and maximising efficiencies of scale. Savvy local government councils and state governments are increasingly calling on emerging technologies to support planning and development for the future and stay one step ahead of the trend.
MELBOURNE PROPOSES LOOPING EVERYONE IN
Melbourne is the fifth fastest growing city in the world today, and by 2050 it’s projected to be the size of London or New York. Victoria has grasped the challenge and initiated an infrastructure boom that’s great news for business, employment, and the economy of Victoria.
According to the Victorian Government’s Big Build website, there are currently 45 transport projects underway, including the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, the West Gate Tunnel, and the sky rail. These projects are long-term — in some cases, spanning ten years or more — and efficiency of construction will rely largely on accurate location data and strategy in the planning phase, as well as the ability to respond to changing contextual, environmental, and other demands over the lifespan of the project.
One of the more prominent examples of forward-thinking infrastructure is Melbourne’s proposed suburban rail loop, a “ring road” that would construct 90km of new track and 12 new stations, functioning as a public transport link connecting suburbs, without forcing commuters to travel into the city in order to reach the airport. The new system would have capacity to transport 400,000 passengers daily, according to the Big Build site.
A map of the proposed rail loop (Source: Victoria State Government)
Currently Melbourne’s train network is monocentric (all lines go through the city), whereas major cities like London and Tokyo have a polycentric transport system. Only 5% of travel in Melbourne is on public transport, compared to 20% in London. The benefits of a polycentric train network are clear: With efficient public transport, London has been able to introduce congestion taxes and exclusion zones in city centres, cutting emissions and congestion while boosting the use of efficient public transit.
The opportunities for housing and other development around these new centres are also significant, and of course the projected cost of the project is impressive: around $50 billion from the most recent figures.
SUSTAINABLE LARGE-SCALE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS START WITH ROBUST LOCATION DATA
Building this scope of project begs the question: what new technologies are available to governments, urban planners, and construction and engineering firms to ensure new projects are viable, and will meet the serious demands required of them?
One technology that’s underpinning the modern infrastructure pipeline is current, wide-scale 3D reality models of major urban centres. By offering a holistic view of an entire city’s footprint rather than just its CBD, 3D reality models have the potential to maximise efficiency and investments by allowing all stakeholders to visualise what’s happening at each stage of a project, including the wider context of the surrounding communities and the built environment. What’s more, photo-realistic, high-res 3D models help planners make decisions based on a single, reliable source of geo-truth, instead of wasting time attempting to align disparate datasets.
Stakeholders across a large-scale project benefit from current, high-res 3D datasets. Urban planners need accurate data to help them evaluate the potential community impact of a new infrastructure project. The accurate modelling of noise propagation, solar irradiation output, and predicted traffic patterns depends on the accuracy and currency of the datasets they're using. Government agencies rely on these models to share their vision for new projects with the larger community, and reinforce engagement activities. When it comes time to bid on a new project, construction and engineering companies need reliable 3D models to accurately predict materials and costs so they can submit competitive plans.
Another critical difference in wide-scale 3D datasets is the context surrounding the project corridors. Often, governments and construction companies rely on a single imagery dataset captured at the beginning of the project, which is never updated, even when the project spans many years, and which is limited to the confines of the land area directly involved in the development. This is a risky proposition at best, given that within six months, there are already likely to be new buildings, or even fresh transit projects underway. With regularly refreshed, wide-scale 3D models, stakeholders can understand change as the project evolves, and understand the impact of their project not just along the corridor, but across the entire city.
This scale of context also helps planners avoid costly blunders and allows developers to respond to changing environments as the project progresses. In short, the success of long-term infrastructure developments depends on frequently refreshed, wide-scale location data that enables agile responsiveness.
If liveability is the heart of a great city, density presents a challenge, not an insurmountable obstacle. Properly managed, with informed and responsive long-term planning using the best possible location data, growing populations present a unique opportunity to shape our future cities with greater knowledge, insight, and communication than ever before.
Learn more about wide-scale 3D: download the product brief.