The Digit Group Inc., Memphis, Tenn. designs smart cities, like Kingdom City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In doing so, its CEO, Paul Doherty says the company is rethinking urban design. And they're changing it too, from the width of city streets, to the necessity of traffic signals and parking lots and even how the buildings communicate with one another. Doherty took a moment to give his thoughts on smart infrastructure and what he calls the Internet of Buildings.
He told ENR how he sees city design changing the way we will build in the future and how his company is designing different than most others today. Besides Kingdom City he's working on what he calls a true greenfield project: Green Dragon Lake District in China, located 15 miles southwest of Beijing.
ENR: How has smart transportation infrastructure changed the way we build?
Paul Doherty: One hundred and twenty years ago there was a brand new innovation called an elevator and that fundamentally changed the shape of buildings.
The LEDs, wifi and full autonomous vehicles for the city also change the shape of it. At Kingdom City which is under construction now in Jedda Saudi Arabia, there are no buses, trains or delivery trucks. It’s a smart city built for only autonomous vehicles, so there are narrow roads, no traffic lights, no parking lots. They’re not necessary. The real question is, what do you do with that extra square footage? Without concrete decks everywhere a city can be green again. Don’t just fill extra room with more shit. We’re going to bring more bits and pieces of all that technology from Kingdom City to Gary Indiana. We should have that closed out by the end of October this year.
Can you talk about the new shape of smart infrastructure?
This isn’t just smart transportation or infrastructure. It has to function organically like an organism. You have to think of each one of these parts of a city as a part of a body, an organism.
You can’t just take out the heart. We haven’t done a good job of that because cities have grown and matured over time in very different ways around the world.
How do you go about designing a Smart City?