Infrastructure is the foundation of modern society. Increasingly bigger projects are being planned worldwide, making these facilities a prime example of why we need efficient people flow.
Modern day economies are based on strong, well-planned infrastructure systems. Mobility, communication, and living space are becoming complex issues to solve as populations grow and economies develop. As urbanization continues, more demands are placed on infrastructure within and between cities.“The most substantial projects of course remain airports, metros and railways; these are the most fundamental elements of infrastructure,” says Henry Zhen Hui Jiang, head of Major Projects for KONE in China. Increasingly, public venues such as stadiums and performing arts centers are also considered infrastructure as they continue to get bigger and bigger.
Redefining government stimulusMost infrastructure projects are extremely large and last many years. Because they are such massive undertakings, government funding is typical. Especially since the global economic downturn, these investments have been vital to survival. While size of the federal stimulus in the US garnered much attention, China is redefining what can be achieved through government spending.“There will be a quite good increase in airport constructions and modernizations worldwide,” says Jiang modestly. For example, China has around 180 airports and plans to build another 50 within ten years. KONE is already the largest supplier for China’s two biggest airports, Beijing and Shanghai, and has received an order for a new, large airport in Kunming.The size of new airports is mind boggling. “The clear trend is that airports are still getting bigger,” says Jiang. He points to the Dubai airport project as an example – a single building covering a whopping 1.5 million square meters. That is the equivalent to over 270 football fields combined.Railway systems, particularly high speed rail, around the world are also continuing to develop into more and more complex systems. In China, for example, at least one thousand kilometers of new railway is laid down annually. “Every year, KONE China gets tenders for up to 3000 elevators just from railway projects. That’s a huge amount.”
Burgeoning traffic hubs Currently, the Chinese are building a multi-use traffic hub called Shanghai Hongqiao Traffic Hub. It stretches nearly two kilometers. KONE is the majority supplier of elevator and escalators and will deliver around 400 units. “This very complex, large-scale project covers all the main public transportation options: airport, metro, Maglev Train, railway, and bus,” says Jiang. “This traffic hub concept is becoming more and more popular. Not all hubs will have all transportation options, but most will feature at least railway, metro and bus.”
Many of the world’s major cities today are either upgrading or expanding their metros. To improve speed and accessibility, People Flow™ solutions are being added to stations, even in shallow metro lines.“Just ten years ago, planners would not put an escalator in metro stations. Nowadays, there is a totally different approach. Even in small stations, escalators are required. Some may use single direction escalators, but most are bi-directional.”The expansion of city metros has been extremely rapid in China. Several cities have systems with well over 100 kilometers of lines. The Shanghai metro is just over 15 years old and already covers 400 kilometers. The London Underground covers roughly the same distance, but has been in operation nearly 150 years. Over 20 cities in China plan on building metros, totaling nearly 3000 kilometers of new lines.
Designing for lifeLong term, careful planning is critical to the success of infrastructure projects. “The People Flow calculations for these massive structures must be accurate, and the solutions must really work. Once built, it is very difficult to change traffic flows. Getting it wrong can result in failure of the entire project,” emphasizes Jiang.“The good thing about infrastructure projects in China is that they really consistently improve all the time. They baseline the flow numbers from similar sized airports, stations, and so on: was it enough, not enough, or maybe too much?” Ultimately, it’s all about sustainability. Smart infrastructure improves quality of life, and equally important, minimizes the impact of modern society on the natural environment.
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