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What’s the Future of Construction in Newcastle?

by Michael Croft on November 13, 2018 in Blog

If we could accurately predict the future, we would be the first to take advantage of the biggest opportunities in Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and other locations. We could buy pieces of land that are near to the future sites of large commercial developments. We could also better plan our construction projects because we could then strategically position them or determine how many of them should we complete.

For example, roads now are getting crowded because most people didn’t anticipate this level of population growth and the increase of private vehicles. In addition, over 80% of trips in Greater Newcastle are by private vehicle, which contributes a lot to the traffic especially during peak hours (e.g. when people are going to work, they’re coming home or going to vacations).

If we could have made the right prediction regarding that trend, we could have built more roads or placed them more strategically so travel times and distances will be minimised. If we know the future, many of the problems and challenges we have now could had been prevented in the first place.

Can we really predict the future?

However, it’s totally not the case especially when predicting Newcastle’s future. Indeed, we can make fairly reasonable projections about population growth (and also about the estimated number of tourists that will come to the area). But in many other areas such as market fluctuations and construction and real estate trends, accurate predictions can be hard to come by.

For instance, there are certain spots in Newcastle that are more attractive to commercial investors. As a result, more workplaces, shops, restaurants and other businesses will sprout in that area. More people will congregate there (both consumers and employees) and roads leading to those areas will get more crowded. Also, there will come a time when parking will be really difficult.

That’s still good news because it’s a sign of economic development. There’s more economic activity because there’s more flow and movement of people, goods and services in the area. But the relatively bad news is that it can also result to inconvenience because of the presence of more people and vehicles in the location.

It’s easy to predict that scenario. However, predicting the exact trajectory and where it might exactly happen can be very difficult. Also, there are huge fluctuations during certain times and when these fluctuations happen can be difficult to predict as well.

The future is difficult (or impossible) to predict in many cases. But based on history and current trends, we can still get a clue on where the future of Newcastle is going specifically when it comes to construction.

Searching for clues towards the future

For instance, no matter where we live or work the trend is towards speed and access. We want something and we want to get it as quick as possible. We also want easy access to a wide variety of options.

This similarly applies to travel whether travelling for leisure or work. We want to get to our destination as fast as possible. We also want to have easy access to amenities, which is why we often live in areas where there are exciting commercial developments. If the residential area is too expensive, some people are willing to settle for longer travel times especially if work is at stake.

Public transport (e.g. bus services operated by Newcastle Transport, two NSW TrainLink intercity lines) is a cost-efficient and reasonably fast way to get to our destinations. However, most people here still prefer using their private vehicles. In many cases it’s the fastest and most accessible way to get from point A to point B. Also, the travel is straightforward and people gain more control when driving.

The use of private vehicles won’t go away anytime soon. But we still need to address the issue of traffic and crowding, which is why the apparent solution is to somehow discourage the use of private vehicles and on the other hand, encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport.

Walking and cycling are only attractive and practical when it comes to short journeys. The use of public transport can only become more widespread if it’s a more attractive option than driving. If the driving experience is totally becoming worse than public transport, naturally people will gravitate towards the latter.

It’s just one hint at Newcastle’s future when it comes to transport infrastructure. For example, to further encourage the use of public transport, one strategy is to facilitate car sharing services that are integrated with the existing public transport network. Another strategy is to further develop our active transport networks. After all, optimising what we have is more cost effective than starting from scratch and planning new infrastructure.

To successfully execute these plans (whether they require new infrastructure or just upgrades), it’s recommended to take a look at the whole picture. After all, it’s an interdependent system. No road, railway or even commercial structure is isolated. Each one is connected to something and each one contributes to the whole.

One way to get the whole picture is by conducting a detail survey (also referred to as a contour or topographic survey). This is used to determine and locate both the natural and man-made features on the site and its surroundings. Details such as the location of commercial buildings, trees, rocks, landmarks and bodies of water can be shown in the survey.

This is valuable in planning new roads or upgrading the existing ones. With this “whole-picture thinking”, we can somehow minimise the travel times and distances from point A to point B. For instance, we can assign priority areas where people or vehicles congregate. We can then create more transport infrastructure or facilitate transport services leading to these priority areas. A detail survey can also help in making other areas more commercially attractive so that crowded areas will be decongested.

But a detail survey is only a single aspect of better planning. After all, the focus should always be on the end users while controlling the costs. A detail survey can help in determining where to put our focus and financial resources. It’s not the end of the story though. The ultimate benefit should go to people while still giving some allowance or buffer for the future.

The future of construction in Newcastle

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to predict the future especially when we’re dealing with large-scale trends such as population, traffic, real estate and construction. The level of complexity even gets higher because it’s all dynamic. Anytime we plan and start something, expect some of or the entire playing field to change. For example, as we introduce new roads (or upgrade the existing ones), expect people, vehicles and commercial properties to sprout around those areas of development.

And as new infrastructure (or when the area experiences renewal) sprout in those areas, expect another set of new challenges to come up. For instance, the Newcastle Beach Infrastructure Renewal Project will lead to the construction of an accessible skate park and bowl, modern kiosk and amenities, an outdoor gym and a tiered seating and shade shelters. The roads or transport infrastructures leading to the Newcastle Beach will experience a higher traffic or higher occupancy. Although there won’t be new car parking in the area, expect the vehicles to congregate somewhere else.

The beach infrastructure renewal project is just one of the several projects in Newcastle. Each one can interact with one another in huge and subtle ways. As new structure is built (whether for transport, residential or commercial), expect the movement and flow of people and vehicles to change.

The key here is to get as much relevant data as possible. Urban planners can start with how people’s needs and behaviours evolve through time. Perhaps more and more people want to take part in environmental protection, which is why they might now prefer public transport. Or, more and more people are willing to settle in residential areas that are a bit far from their workplaces (e.g. homes or rent are more expensive near commercial areas). As a result, travel distances and times increase and this results to heavy traffic when 9am approaches or it’s past 5pm.

A detail survey is just one of the starting points in better planning. But it’s valuable when viewing the whole picture. It can also give people insights on how the area might evolve for the coming years. It’s one of our specialisations here at Geosurv. We can perform large-scale detail surveys that can help with the proper assessment and planning of the site. Contact us today and our Registered and Licensed Surveyors will study your requirements.