Infrastructure and building growing in unison

Arup’s infrastructure and building projects are growing rapidly in Australia, particularly in Sydney. NSW region leader Andrew Pettifer says business grew strongly last year and they anticipate growth continuing this year.

“Roughly speaking our office went from 400 to 600 staff last year, which is a step change really, and it’s continuing to grow,” he says. “And it’s interesting because at Arup we don’t have growth as an objective for the firm. Growth for us is a consequence of success.”

Traditionally Arup’s work has been organised around infrastructure (rail, highways and bridges) and buildings (commercial property, hospitals, etcetera) with a range of specialists sitting between them in consulting.

“What is happening at the moment is that both the infrastructure side of the business and the building side of the business are growing together,” Pettifer says, instead of property being up and infrastructure down or vice versa.

“Both are seeing good growth for us and that then drives the specialists as well, so every path of our business has simultaneously got some growth going on, which is positive for us.”

Work is happening in the rail sector to an extent we haven’t seen before in the Australian market.

“With major metro projects in Sydney and in Melbourne in the pipeline simultaneously, rail is going to be an area where I think there is competition for good people,” Pettifer says.

Tunnelling is another area where expertise will be in demand.

Pettifer says there has been a step change in activity in areas where there has not been massive demand historically, creating competition in the market.

Another interesting trend is that the rail projects are bringing the buildings market and the infrastructure market together in complex large-scale projects across Sydney and Melbourne.

“From Arup’s point of view, that is good for us because we have strength right across those markets so we are able to bring those together and offer something quite compelling,” Pettifer says.

He believes expertise across a range of disciplines is essential to deliver these major infrastructure developments effectively.

“The firms that can do that are going to do well.”

Placemaking tools focus on Care Factor

Sydney start-up PLACESCORE is moving into the Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart markets this month, and has launched two new tools to assist local governments, state governments and property developers plan better cities for individual communities.

The two tools – Care Factor and PX Assessment – provide systems to conduct place experience surveys for public spaces where new development or planning is about to start to define local priorities so that investment can be delivered where it will have the greatest impact.

The Care Factor tool captures what the community values about a type of place in general. A PX Assessment allows the community to rate their current experience of their main street or neighbourhood.

General manager Gini Sinclair says the company is also aiming to move into the Perth market in May. The aim is to grow to be 100 per cent national. Presently there’s three staff in Sydney (it’s only office) though there are representatives on the ground in Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Perth.

Sinclair told The Fifth Estate the City of Parramatta in NSW was an early adopter, engaging with 2300 community members who completed a Care Factor survey to indicate what was most important to them in making town centres the type of places they want to frequent.

According to Sinclair, Care Factor is an easy-to-use and affordable community engagement tool that enables users to reach a broad cross section of the community.

“It gives a voice to the silent majority who are not likely to turn up to workshops,” she says.

To date, the company has engaged with more than 10,000 Australians. Interestingly, not one neighbourhood’s top 10 was the same as the LGA average. The data is being used to develop national benchmarks helping to define wider trends in urban values.

Interest from industry has already been positive.

“They can definitely see where the tool can be used,” Sinclair says. “It’s about making sure we get involved at the early stages of projects – timing and budget.”

Solar Savers to sweep Vic

The expanded Solar Savers program is employing its first two sustainable energy officers – one in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and one in Castlemaine – to assist pensioner households install solar systems at no upfront cost.

Four Victorian greenhouse alliances are working in a unique partnership with local government to scale up the City of Darebin’s successful program across more than 20 Victorian municipalities.

A $760,000 grant from the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund is funding sustainable energy officers for the program, which will continue until June 2019.

Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action program leader sustainable energy Karl Barratt says the initial phase had two purposes: to deliver the installation of the solar systems and to test whether it was possible to scale up the program so that it could be replicated everywhere in Victoria.

Households will access funds in two ways. In one deal, councils will provide the funds on behalf of pensioners who will pay it off through their rates. The other deal involves low-interest loans from finance providers.

“It’s a really good deal with zero per cent interest,” Barratt says. “We are in the process of identifying those households who would benefit the most from solar panels, but aren’t in the position to afford the initial set up.”

There are still a limited number of opportunities for Victorian councils to participate in this Australian-first project.

What’s next for NSW?

First premier Gladys Berejiklian appoints a minister to overlook the development of a motorway and now she has called in the army to get things done in the rest of the state.

In January Penrith MP Stuart Ayres was named minister for the $16.8 billion WestConnex motorway, and now former Australian Army chief lieutenant general Ken Gillespie has become the state government’s first regional infrastructure coordinator. His job is to accelerate the roll-out of infrastructure across NSW.

Why? The constituents must be getting very pesky indeed. The premier says it’s to ensure all communities are getting their fair share in a timely manner. Keep calm – no doubt it’s in the national interest.

Nuts and bolts of sustainability

TAFE NSW has introduced a Certificate IV in Environmental Management and Sustainability at Ryde. It’ the only Certificate IV on offer at TAFE NSW to learn skills such as waste cost reduction, energy usage and cost reduction, and sustainable procurement.

Australian government website joboutlook.gov.au forecasts strong growth for environmental sustainability occupations over the next five years.

The course focuses on applying the acquired knowledge and skills to a business environment, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a new environment-focused career, and those working in industries such as property and construction where these skills are in high demand. The NSW Government’s Smart and Skilled scheme is subsidising the course.

Applied Environmental Management head teacher Agata Mitchell says the course was created to meet industry demand, and teaches the “nuts and bolts” of being able to assess and implement environmental protection strategies and tactics for commercial businesses and private residences.

For more information, contact TAFE NSW.

Edited by Sandra Edmunds, For all Pulse submissions or inquiries contact Sandra@thefifthestate.com.au

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