Strong demand and growth opportunities in the right markets along with a focus on decarbonization and overall sustainability pushed engineering and consulting firm Arup to new heights heading into its 78th year of operation.

Immediately following the pandemic, Arup saw an 11% drop in its California regional revenue from a peak of $160 million in 2020. Over the next two years, the firm not only bounced back but revenue exceeded pre-pandemic levels, growing 17% in 2022 and then 15% to a record $193 million in 2023.

“This growth has been made possible first and foremost by focusing on our clients, investing in winning and delivering quality work on strategic projects,” says Scott Russell, principal and Americas West leader at Arup.

Expansion of critical infrastructure sectors across the state of California—such as aviation, water and rail—has led to an influx of opportunities. Federal funding from both the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are making a “tangible, positive impact on advancing projects here in California,” says Kate White, principal and Arup’s Americas West highways business leader.

“It's inspiring to be part of this major generational investment in infrastructure—especially with a focus on social equity and decarbonization,” White say. “We’ve been helping cities and transportation agencies capitalize on these funding opportunities to realize more resilient transit systems, roadways and energy infrastructure.”

“As a firm, we’ve been building on our risk and resilience expertise with an emphasis on coastal resiliency here in California.”
—Kate White, Principal, Americas West Highways Business Leader, Arup

An expansive portfolio of projects has kept Arup’s teams busy across the state. In the last year alone, landmark projects completed in Los Angeles include the 55,000-sq-ft Audrey Irmas Pavilion at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, the 180,000-sq-ft base-isolated tower the (W)rapper and Delta Sky Way’s West Headhouse at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 3.

Up in Sacramento, Arup was part of the team that delivered the Calif. Dept. of General Services’ May Lee State Office Complex, which opened in April. The facility is the largest net-zero energy and net-zero carbon campus in the U.S., says Amie Nulman, principal and the firm’s Americas West government buildings leader.

Back in Los Angeles at the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is the recently completed “Go for Stack” effort—placing the Space Shuttle Endeavour in it's 500,000-lb, 180-ft-tall exhibit space. The work on the center itself is continuing. “As part of the project team, Arup designed the support for the shuttle stack and worked with the California Science Center to confirm acceptable behavior during large earthquakes and designed the building enclosing it,” Nulman says.

Ensuring resilience against extreme events is another area of expertise at Arup. In 2013, the firm launched its first resilience-based design initiative (REDi) for earthquakes. These guidelines are designed to be a companion to modern building codes, enabling design teams to go beyond code to achieve resilience objectives that will ensure rapid restoration of building functionality and occupancy. The next iteration was launched in 2022 for extreme wind, followed by guidelines for extreme flooding and sea level rise in December 2023.

San Francisco International Airport’s Harvey Milk Terminal 1

Arup recently celebrated LEED Platinum certifi-cation of San Francisco International Airport’s Harvey Milk Terminal 1. The firm served as sustainability coordinator on the project.
Photo by Jason O’Rear

“Over the past year, we’ve seen strong demand for sustainability-related services in the design and construction markets,” Russell says. “Businesses are also increasingly looking to optimize their portfolios, driving growth in digital solutions that help optimize their assets and reduce carbon impacts.”

In a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, Arup released a report in March detailing how U.S. ports can develop decarbonization plans, advance environmental justice in their local communities and apply for federal funds through the U.S. EPA’s $3-billion Clean Ports Program announced in March.

“As a lot of our 20th-century infrastructure nears the end of its useful life, there are endless opportunities to rethink and redesign these systems to be more resilient and to be more positive for our communities and the environment,” White says.

To that end, Arup is supporting the Southern California Association of Governments on its Highways to Boulevards Regional Study, which is identifying opportunities to reconnect communities by removing, retrofitting or mitigating transportation facilities.

“Arup is ubiquitous on the LAX program and a true extension of the team.”
—Brian Ruppert, Managing Director, Design & Construction, Delta Air Lines

Arup is also contributing to two high-speed rail initiatives in the region: Brightline West, an all-electric, high-speed train that will connect Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Las Vegas, and the California High-Speed Rail (CA HSR), which will eventually include more than 800 miles of rail across the state. The firm is handling design and consulting services for Brightline and design services and managing the systemwide sustainability program for CA HSR.

“This is a transformative project, not just for Los Angeles and San Francisco, but for every community in-between,” Russell says of the latter.

The CA HSR Authority plans to run its trains on 100% renewable energy as well, White notes, which makes the system the first of its kind. “Our energy team has been analyzing the energy needed to power the trains and identifying sites for solar energy production,” she says.

Climate adaptation and resilience work of varying size and scope continues across California as well. For example, Arup is collaborating with the Baldwin Hills & Urban Watersheds Conservancy on its Watershed Resilience & Improvement Blueprint, Caltrans Highway 1 Climate Adaptation Plan and the San Francisco Bay Trail Risk Assessment and Adaptation Prioritization Plan.

“As a firm, we’ve been building on our risk and resilience expertise with an emphasis on coastal resiliency here in California,” White says. “We are also continuing to progress sustainable development and decarbonization efforts through our firmwide commitment to conduct whole life-cycle carbon assessments for all our buildings projects and focus on circular economy tools.”

The “Go for Stack” project

The “Go for Stack” project is creating a permanent home for the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Photo courtesy of the California Science Center

Long-Term Ties

Over the last decade, Arup has supported Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on numerous projects, such as the Marina del Rey Replacement Hospital Project (MDRH) Campus Master Plan now underway in Los Angeles.

“The relationship is fluid and takes many forms, which has allowed us to work with Arup uninterruptedly, independently of a specific project,” says Alicia Wachtel, executive director of facilities planning, design and construction at Cedars-Sinai. “Arup works with us as a trusted adviser, which enables continuous collaboration on many types of undertakings.”

During design on the MDRH, for example, Arup modeled patient rooms in a holistic way for Cedars-Sinai, allowing the client to test exterior sound, interior sound, light, temperature and heat gain, visual lines to the exterior and placement of equipment and technology, all within Arup’s sound studio, Wachtel recalls. “It allowed us to make important decisions with the highest levels of our system leadership right there at their office,” she adds.

Another of Arup’s established partnerships is with Delta Air Lines. The two first teamed in 2010 in New York, followed a few years later by large terminal redevelopment projects in Los Angeles. “Delta has counted on the Arup team to listen to our ideas, requirements and quickly respond with resources and design production, very often on tight timelines,” says Brian Ruppert, managing director for design and construction at Delta. “That means they are at the table with us, defining a strategy for documentation to simplify permitting, construction phasing to limit operational impacts, creative solutions to address legacy building conditions, advocating the team’s positions with AHJs [authorities having jurisdiction], our construction partners, airport staff and being integral in steering those strategies all the way through to final commissioning.”

One project is the $2.4-billion LAX Sky Way Redevelopment program, which will wrap up in 2024. This included the demolition and reconstruction of most of the legacy Terminal 3 along with extensive renovations to Terminal 2, Ruppert says.

“Arup is ubiquitous on the LAX program and a true extension of the team,” he says. “They are close to the work, understand it intimately and bring a voice of deep expertise. The team has earned Delta’s trust and frequently is our representative in discussions with a broad spectrum of stakeholders.”

2023 Urban Land Institute

Attendees of the 2023 Urban Land Institute fall meeting tour the (W)rapper Tower in Los Angeles.
Photo courtesy of Arup

Setting Priorities

After implementing a new regional leadership structure in 2022, Arup has been better able to align within its markets served, from health care to transportation, energy and water.

“Now two years into operating in this organization, we are hitting a stride of delivering increased value through more focused efforts and broad strategy discussions with our clients,” Nulman says.

Equity is another focal point for Arup’s California operations, which have achieved 100% pay equity for both women and minorities. An annual DEI report that has been produced for more than a decade helps Arup monitor its progress on this front as well.

“We are motivated by our desire to have an impact. In order to deliver that positive impact, we must continue the quality culture that we have at Arup in California and across our global firm while also continuing to grow the scope, scale and reach of the business,” Russell says.

Looking forward, Arup’s strategy is centered on having the resources and capabilities necessary to meet the climate crisis. “Overall, our attention is on delivering the scope, scale and reach we need to have a meaningful, positive impact on California’s built environment. We do this by continuing to work with clients who are trying to make both big and small changes,” he says. “In the grand scheme of things, change of any size measures up and bends the curve toward a more sustainable world.”