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Leaders UAE 2018: Government mandates needed to build smart cities

Aecom's Hamed Zaghw, Parsons' Gregg Welch, WSP's Greg Kane, and Mott MacDonald's Chris Seymour dissect the mandates needed to boost 'Smart Dubai'

Construction leaders say legislation is needed to support smart city development in Dubai and beyond.
Construction leaders say legislation is needed to support smart city development in Dubai and beyond.

Greater government mandates are needed to drive the evolution of Dubai as a smart city, a panel of experts said at the ongoing Construction Week: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit 2018.

The panel, titled Bringing Smart Dubai to Life – A Race to the Future, was moderated by Chris Seymour, managing director of Mott MacDonald’s Middle East operation. The panel included Hamed Zaghw, chief executive officer of Aecom Middle East; Gregg Welch, senior vice president and built division manager in the Middle East and Africa at Parsons; and Greg Kane, managing director at WSP. 


Zaghw said masterplans are at the crux of ensuring smart cities can be developed – and evolve – over time: “There are multiple ways of looking at smart cities; masterplans the macro level aspect of this. If you have a framework that is founded on resilience and sustainability, then you have the basis for a masterplan that can survive technological changes.

“Smart cities are an evolution. If you don't have the right governing framework, the micro level might be smart, but if you try to integrate it, [it won't work].”

Seymour said open-source data models, such as one adopted in Helsinki, was a potential way forward for smart city developers in Dubai and the wider region, and asked the panel if a similar system could be rolled out in the Gulf. 

To this, Kane said: “How many of us in the [industry] would be willing to open up our data, and would our clients be willing [to let us do so]? There's a huge amount of data we're sitting on as an industry that we could put to fantastic use [through open-source models].

“The government has a role to play. If we can get the right mandate from the government that gets everyone acting in the right way, it will help [boost sustainability in smart cities]. Not everything can be left to laissez-faire economics, and sustainability [needs more].”

Tech adoption by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is also changing the way construction professionals view and adopt smart city basics in Dubai and beyond. Parsons’ Welch said future construction leaders would play a key role in the process, especially as OEMs and civil construction firms collaborate on a greater level. 

He continued: “Just by the nature of the kind of organisations that OEMs are, and the technology that they use, they attract college graduates more than pure construction [jobs]. OEMs and construction [cooperation] will attract more talented youth.”

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Construction Week - Issue 740
May 02, 2019