Leaders Kuwait 2019: User comfort 'the ultimate goal' for smart tech

Khatib & Alami’s Marlon van Maastricht outlines how technology can help design liveable smart cities during Leaders Kuwait 2019

Van Maastricht delivered Leaders Kuwait 2019's keynote speech
ITP Media Group
Van Maastricht delivered Leaders Kuwait 2019's keynote speech

Digital transformation is fortifying the global construction sector as the demand for smart city development increases around the world, and Kuwait is no different.

At the core of digitisation and future technology lies user comfort – one of the talking points at Construction Week’s Leaders in Construction Kuwait Summit held on 16 October 2019, at the Radisson Blu hotel in Kuwait City, which brought some of the biggest names in the industry together to discuss key topics shaping the country’s construction industry.

Marlon van Maastricht, senior manager of landscape architecture, urban planning, and design at design and engineering giant Khatib & Alami, kicked off the summit with a keynote speech explaining the importance of putting people first while planning, designing, and embracing the cities and public realm of tomorrow.

Commenting on the need for people-centric cities, he said: “User comfort should be the ultimate goal of smart technologies. When we look at future cities and the living environment that we intend to create, it’s very important to put the user experience first, and realise that ‘smart’ is not the objective, but the baseline.”

Indeed, the industry must seek to strike a balance between its use of technology and the digitalisation it intends to embed in the future cities it designs. Commenting on the impact of technology in the construction sector, van Maastricht reflected on a time when the industry predominantly relied on drawings that were designed prior to work commencement, but did not always provide adequate insights about actual challenges, clashes, and snags that might be faced onsite.

“Now, with BIM and GIS, [and similar] technologies, we have an opportunity to look into the future and actually test what we imagine. We’ve reached a stage that a lot of technologies work really well [together]. It has to be noted, though, that technological progress is being made in most sectors, but a lot of this tech, and their stakeholders, are still operating in silos. Interfacing and integration is where the future of our cities lies.”

However, the Khatib & Alami expert pointed out that the evolution of concepts such as artificial intelligence and internet of things would support the drive towards technological cohesion: “When we talk about digital transformation and integration, we are still in the early stages, and [users are] starting to grasp what technology can do in the fabric of integration between buildings, mobility, infrastructure, the public realm, and the environment.”

Van Maastricht also emphasized the company’s effort to develop strong green urban policy frameworks while planning, designing, and developing future cities, adding: “Regionally, Khatib & Alami has focused on how we plan our cities, and what kind of policy steps and instruments are critical. I’m very glad that Kuwait’s Vision 2035 initiative has the living environment at the core of its strategy. This is a step in the right direction.

“We want to plan environments that we ourselves would like to live in and use, and that should always be the main driver of digitally driven urban planning, rather than relying on smart technology as a buzzword,” van Maastricht added.

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