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Friday, March 03, 2006
Arups in the Thames Gateway
Arup, the company that is the pride of British multi-disciplinary design and engineering, whether or not you like it; one of the most innovative companies in the country if not the world; high-profile and well-known.

Arups must go to China to find a client who wants to build a carbon-neutral eco-city (in Dongtan), before (as Building Magazine reports today [subscribers only, click here]) the UK government invites them to help develop plans for the Thames Gateway. The Thames Gateway that has been on the cards for decades, where eco-development has been talked about as a real and exciting potential solution for years, where inspiration, innovation and a raison d'etre are sorely lacking.

Why can't our government commission with similar bravery to a random provincial city in China? Why do our best practitioners have to go abroad to develop new approaches, before local clients reluctantly catch up?

From the article:

Peter Head, head of urban design and development and a director at Arup, has spoken to the ODPM and other government departments about adopting the model of a sustainable city in the Thames Gateway. Head said discussions were still at a strategic level but there was a great deal of interest in the idea.

He said: "This is a continual dialogue. It's a desire to raise the game - John Prescott has said the same thing. We want to move quickly with this and so far have agreed with stakeholders that if we use this model, it would be a win-win situation because studies show it works.

"The government is not moving quickly with this but we are talking to the ODPM as well as other government departments."
The concept of an eco-city has excited the government, which is committed to rolling out the sustainable communities plan.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott went to China last month to witness the signing of a renewable energy deal for Dongtan between Arup and developer Shanghai Industrial Investment Company (SIIC). There is talk of an imminent visit by London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Arup has been in talks with several Thames Gateway quangos about how to build an eco-city there and has had a good reception. Head said: "We are looking at implementing this in existing projects in Thames Riverside and Sittingbourne in the Thames Gateway. We are using the same model we used at Dongtan and the same process but the parameters are different as the UK cities would be on a smaller scale." Lorraine Baldry, chair of the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, said she would pursue the plan. She said: "We have had a meeting with Arup about an eco-city and they have done a technical model for us, feeding in different data, to see how this could work at Thames Riverside. We are very keen to carry on having as many meetings as possible to see if we can implement this in our area."

Arup signed a deal last year with the SIIC to build two more eco-cities in China following talks between prime minister Tony Blair and Chinese president Hu Jintao.

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