Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Some years ago my neighbours gave me a petition for signature. The petition opposed the conversion of a park created by the urban authority for the surrounding residential areas into a commercial complex, a mall. I signed it because this park was a breathing place for the area, a place for communion with nature, a place where people went for a brisk morning walk. But the petition was rejected by the same urban authority on the plea that commercialisation of the plot would yield much-needed revenue and there were many other parks which we could use. A friend in the construction industry, on the other hand, extolled the proposed commercialisation saying that it would be the pride of the city. So the park was dug up and up came a swanky mall, the biggest in the city, with premium shops and a multiplex.
It was not long before irate citizens living near the mall went to court. The quiet of the residential area was disturbed by the late night traffic of the revellers exiting the multiplex. Traffic management became a problem as the adjoining roads, built to serve the residential areas, had to carry the enhanced stream of vehicles that was the result of the mall. Traffic jams, parking woes, noise and other woes had an impact on property values.
This could be an ideal case study of how a project may choose to benefit from the integration of construction technology with geospatial technology and the involvement of citizens’ concerns through tools like the social media. Had the builders not restricted themselves to the 3D CAD drawings but also observed the 3D building in the context of the 3D cityscape, the roads, the noise requirements, the traffic flow and planned to integrate the mall into the immediate surroundings, much of the unhappiness could have been avoided.
Construction technology has gone digital with Building Information Modelling or BIM. Level 1 BIM uses 2D and 3D CAD but this does not take into account the natural and manmade settings in which the 3D-rendered construction will be situated. This requires a convergence of CAD and geospatial technologies. Such a convergence is taking place and will only grow further because it helps the construction engineer to visualise his creation in a realistic 3D environment and thus anticipate problems and work around them on the drawing board itself, thereby saving costs of ad hoc design changes and rebuilding.
Any construction, be it a commercial property, a utility or a unit of infrastructure, will affect the surroundings. And who knows this better than the people living there! Social media provides an excellent platform to obtain the opinion of the citizens and incorporate their concerns into the design.
As we enter an age where cities are growing into mega cities and people are moving from rural areas to cities, the problem of designing and maintaining a sustainable urban environment which meets the requirements of local administration and citizens will become complex. In such a situation, multi-dimensional spatial modelling, which includes natural, engineering, financial and social factors, is an imperative. Geospatial technology, BIM and social media need to come together to provide optimum solutions. The alternative is litigation and bad blood between citizens, local government and business.