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NCE100 | Arup

Best place to work key speech word cloud c arup copy

A main aim of Arup, as set down by its founder Ove Arup in a speech in 1970, is social usefulness. For the past 10 years, the company’s international development team has been working with local organisations in shanty settlements.

Across the world 1.2bn people – or 16% of the world’s population – live in shanty towns with limited or no access to water, supplies, or emergency services. Fires regularly break out, wipe out homes and take lives. In South Africa, 570 people died in 2013 alone as a result of fires.

Arup identified a lack of fire engineering knowledge among non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It then funded a group of its fire engineers to research the root causes, effects of settlement patterns and materials on fire spread, potential mitigations and the cultural change required to improve the situation.  Arup’s project manager presented at a University College London session on fire safety in informal settlements and has since joined a working group of NGOs on this topic.

Arup’s findings were presented at the 2016 Fire Aid Conference. The company has briefed 60% its own global directors who are now raising awareness of the problem and Arup’s findings across the world. The fire team continues with its work and visited South Africa early this year. It is also to help evaluate fire safety in refugee camps in the Republic of Georgia.

Creative technology use

Arup uses existing technologies creatively, and develops new technologies, to solve client problems. One project example is the design of a 300m by 150m lattice structure within a major retail distribution centre, to allow robots to pick goods from the inventory and fulfil customer orders. Arup was tasked with optimising the lattice to cope with the complex cyclic robot loading movements.

To achieve this,  the consultant modelled 14M robot movement in the largest Oasys GSA structural analysis model to date. This generated a time history response for every element for 220 representative elastic load cases. Each analysis took over five hours, but was automated and run overnight. Arup stored the 12 terrabyte output in the cloud, and its engineers then extracted load data, combined the load cases they needed, and used it to optimise the elements they were designing.

Arup says this project has taken it into new territory. It has allowed it to take advantage of processing power to model real-life loading more accurately, and has allowed it to use large amounts of cloud-based data to optimise design. It has also equipped its engineers with new skills, including writing code and scripts to automate repetitive analysis.

Socially useful

In line with its aim to be socially useful, sustainability is embedded throughout Arup’s processes and projects.

The consultant was a key contributor to the Green Construction Board, including the Low Carbon Routemap and Infrastructure Carbon Review Initiative. Arup co-authored the “Publically Available Specification (PAS) 2080 on Carbon Management in infrastructure” founded on the principles of “whole life value”, which it pioneered in collaboration with Mott MacDonald.

The specification, is a world first, and provides the framework for reducing whole life carbon.

Arup showcased how the new PAS principles can result in far-reaching carbon reductions with the design of Irfan, a new district of Muscat, Oman. The emphasis in PAS 2080 is on investing capital carbon and cost to achieve reductions through efficiency gains in the long life of built assets. Arup says Irfan will catalyse improvements in air quality and carbon reduction in central Muscat, through relieving traffic congestion and re-structuring the city’s business district.

Working environmentnce

Arup strives to be a great place to work. In 2016 it was voted into “The Times Top 50 Employers for women” – for the sixth year in a row – and has won several recruitment awards.

Arup has a real focus on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and is currently recruiting an EDI director. It also has “diversity champions” in each region across the UK as well as three networks promoting diversity.

These are: Connect Out (Arup’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group); Connect Cultures (cultural, religious and ethnic diversity); and Connect Women (to improve opportunities for women).

Special mention goes to Clare Lavelle for her contribution to the profession. She leads Arup’s Scotland and North East England energy consulting practice and is engaged in campaigns aimed at promoting the industry. In November Lavelle was a guest on BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour discussing engineering and its career opportunities. Lavelle’s radio appearance followed her winning the 2016 Karen Burt Award for “contributions to the promotion of the engineering profession”.

Lavelle has played a leading role developing British and international standards relating to renewable energy and has represented Scottish Renewables on the British Standards Institute (BSI) Marine Standards Committee. She represents the UK at the IEC Inaugural Meeting for Marine Standards. Lavelle also led an international working group developing a standard for the “performance assessment of wave energy converters at sea.”

Key facts

Winner NCE100 Company of the Year

Winner Collaborative Firm of the Year


  • Contribution to the Profession
  • Low Carbon Leader
  • Best Place to Work


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