Arup marks 50 years in Wales

Sarah Wright - Communications Coordinator Sarah Wright UKIMEA Press Office,London
7 September 2020

This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of Arup’s Cardiff office opening. Over the past half century, Wales has been dramatically reshaped by industrial, economic, political and environmental influences. We’re privileged to have worked with our clients on projects that have contributed to making Wales more sustainable, more resilient and better connected.

Our Cardiff office has grown from a staff of six in 1970 to today employing more than 400 engineers, consultants and technical specialists who work here on local, UK and international projects. But we’re not resting on our laurels, we continue to grow our skills, harness new technologies and work with the industry and policymakers to develop solutions to the challenges facing Wales and the wider world today.  

Cardiff Bay

In 1970, we made Cardiff Bay our home in Wales, and we’ve been here ever since. Recent decades have seen a total redevelopment of the Bay from a largely derelict docklands to a thriving waterfront shopping, leisure and cultural centre and the home of the Senedd, or Welsh Parliament. We have been fortunate to have been able to play a role in this transformation, from designing the aeration system that maintains the oxygen content in the Bay’s freshwater lake, to Roald Dahl Plass – the public space created from the former entrance to the Cardiff dock, to the built environment across the waterfront, including the International Sports Village, Mermaid Quay retail and leisure district, and many of the surrounding office and residential buildings. We’re particularly proud of our work on two of the Bay’s most distinctive buildings – The Wales Millennium Centre and the Senedd.

Cardiff Bay Barrage - Andrew Hazard Photography Cardiff Bay Barrage - Andrew Hazard Photography
Cardiff Bay aeration. ©Andrew Hazard Photography

The Wales Millennium Centre is a 33,000m² arts venue including a 1,852-seat theatre designed to stage both opera and amplified musical productions. We provided a wide range of engineering design services, as well as planning supervision, infrastructure, geotechnics, transport planning and acoustics consultancy for this Cardiff landmark. Our acoustic consultants used a technique called ‘auralisation’ which allowed the client and design team to listen to simulated performances in the auditorium during the design. This helped minimise costs while eliminating any sound pollution from a nearby road tunnel. 

Wales Millennium Centre Cultural Village. Andrew Hazard Photography Wales Millennium Centre Cultural Village. Andrew Hazard Photography
The Wales Millennium Centre. © Andrew Hazard Photography

Overlooking Cardiff Bay and the Bristol Channel, the home of the Senedd Cymru was designed to reflect Wales’ desire for an open and transparent government, with glass facades and two levels open to the public. We provided structural, geotechnical, civil, infrastructure, facade and transportation engineering design for the building, including its undulating roof that supports the timber, funnel-like form that is the building’s centrepiece. The Senedd was designed to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and combines many energy saving systems that reduce running costs by up to 50%.

Honouring Wales’ past and designing for a better future

Wales has a rich cultural history and reverence for its industrial heritage, which has been reflected in our work on museums and visitor attractions across the country. Our engineers and technical experts have worked on the refurbishment and extension of some of Wales’ most significant museums and galleries, including the National Museum of Wales, the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenafon and the Glyn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, where our structural, mechanical, electrical and public health (MEP) engineers designed a full refurbishment and extension of the existing Grade II* listed building.

In Gwynedd, we provided structural, civil, mechanical and electrical detailed design for the redevelopment of the visitor centre and rail terminus atop Yr Wyddfa/ Snowdon. As the highest building in England and Wales, its remote location presented some interesting challenges and required creative solutions, including around transporting materials to site, reusing demolition rubble to minimise removal and achieving a structure able to withstand 150mph winds.

Visitor centre and rail terminus atop Snowdon Visitor centre and rail terminus atop Snowdon
Visitor centre and rail terminus atop Snowdon.

At Wales’ largest and most popular heritage attraction, St Fagans National Museum of Wales, our structural, MEP and geotechnical engineers, and sustainability consultants worked on the detailed design of an extension and major refurbishment of the museum’s existing main building as well as a 1,000m² new-build gallery, education and craft space set in woodland, called Y Gweithdy. Y Gweithdy achieved a BREEAM Excellent sustainability rating and won the RIBA Wales Sustainability Award in 2019. Shortly after works were complete, the museum as a whole won the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019 award. 

St Fagans National History Museum. Craig Auckland St Fagans National History Museum. Craig Auckland
St Fagans National History Museum of Wales. © Craig Auckland

Supporting an environmentally-resilient Wales

Wales’ natural environment is one of its most powerful assets and creating resilience to climate change is one of its biggest challenges. We have worked across the country on renewable energy schemes, and with utilities and public bodies on schemes that improve our waterways and make our communities greener and more flood resilient, while delivering a host of other benefits.

In Grangetown, Cardiff, our design team worked closely with our client, Cardiff Council, as well as scheme partners, water utility, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, and environmental authority, Natural Resources Wales, on the Greener Grangetown project, which prevents more than 40,000m³ of rainwater each year from entering the combined sewer network. Our approach brought civil engineers together with our placemaking team to create ‘rain gardens’ that slow rainwater run-off flows and remove contaminants, cleaning and diverting rainwater directly into the nearby River Taff. In this collaboration, we maximised the project’s benefits and transformed streetscapes, creating new green infrastructure and enhancing an existing riverside cycle-footpath.

Greener Grangetown. Math Roberts Greener Grangetown. Math Roberts
Greener Grangetown

On the Loughor Estuary near Llanelli, our water engineers used a catchment-wide approach and digital modelling and design solutions to provide a resilient, environmentally-sustainable and cost-effective solution to waste water overflow incidents, reducing them by 75% while saving Welsh Water £15m+ in capital expenditure compared to traditional methods. The Halfway and Northumberland Sewage Pumping Stations project won the Constructing Excellence Value Award in 2019 for this work.

The health of the nation

Our healthcare work brings together multi-disciplinary teams, often combining the skills of structural, mechanical, electrical and public health engineers with specialisms such as acoustics and lighting design to create healthcare environments that promote healing, efficiency and resiliency. Our work in Wales has included new build hospitals such as Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr in Ystrad Mynach and Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan in Ebbw Vale, but our healthcare specialists in Cardiff have also worked on UK and international projects, such as the Christie Proton Beam Therapy Centre in Manchester, one of a few facilities of its kind in the world.

Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan Hospital. Charlotte Wood Photography Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan Hospital. Charlotte Wood Photography
Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan © Charlotte Wood Photography

Connecting Wales

From rail engineers to transport planners, civil engineers to environmental consultants, our people have worked on some of the biggest schemes improving transport connections across Wales, by road, rail, bike and on foot. We have been involved at every stage of projects, from developing a business case to creating detailed designs. 

Our road schemes across Wales have improved connectivity and economic outcomes by providing access to jobs, while maximising opportunities for environmental benefits. In Gwynedd, we completed the design of a scheme to widen the A470 in the Lledr Valley, a project falling entirely within the Snowdonia National Park and described in the media as ‘possibly the greenest road in Britain’. The project was a Major Projects Finalist at the British Construction Industry Awards in 2005 and received an ‘Excellent’ award from CEEQUAL for the combined environmental performance of client, designer and contractor. The project was praised for its consideration of effects on the landscape, protection of archaeological sites, waste management, and protection of ecology and biodiversity – including the translocation of ecological soils and turf, and installation of reptile habitat, replacement bat roosts and culverts with ledges to protect local otter populations.  Our rail work has included a significant contribution to the Great Western Main Line electrification programme, including design of the overhead line, foundations and major enabling works for several sections of the route. We have also delivered the design of maintenance and repair facilities, including development on a brownfield site in Swansea.

As well as journey reduction, increasing use of public transport and active travel, electric vehicles (EVs) have a part to play in reducing the carbon impact of travel. We are supporting Transport for Wales (TfW) to deliver essential EV charging infrastructure to enable long-distance travel across Wales. In partnership with private and public sector bodies, the project will see the installation of rapid charging infrastructure across the strategic road network to help ensure that drivers will be able to charge when and where they need it. 

Since the passing of the Active Travel (Wales) Act in 2013, Welsh Government has led the way in prioritising active travel in Wales. We have worked with local authorities and private developers to create active travel schemes and incorporate active travel measures into developments and public spaces. In the Welsh capital, we are supporting Cardiff Council in its vision to double the proportion of cycle trips within the city by 2030. We worked with the council to develop proposals for a network of cycleways across the city, completing preliminary concept plans for over 30km of cycle routes.

Cardiff Cycleway Cardiff Cycleway
Cardiff Cycleways

Cardiff is often cited as Europe’s fastest growing capital city. Over the last 50 years, the city centre has changed beyond recognition to become a tourist and shopping destination city and commercial centre. From the original St David’s shopping centre, St David’s Hall and the St David’s 2 development, to the Principality Stadium, we’ve worked on many of the buildings that have made the city what it is today. We are particularly proud to have been involved in the design of all of the buildings in the recent Central Square development that has brought 21st century office space and BBC Wales to the heart of the city, transforming a complex brownfield site alongside Cardiff Central railway station into a commercial gateway to the city.

Following the recent COVID-19 lockdown, we’ve worked with Cardiff Council on the reopening of the city centre – creating a strategy to bring people back into the city and support the reopening of businesses while maintaining social distancing, as well as considering longer-term opportunities to improve access to high-quality open space, digital networks, air quality, resilient infrastructure and active travel.

Ariel view Ariel view
Cardiff Central Square and surrounding area

Looking to the future

As well as supporting immediate recovery, we’re keeping the long-term issues in mind. The climate crisis is as pressing as ever, as demonstrated in Arup’s 2050 scenarios report, published last year. In a recent report on south Wales’ journey to net zero carbon by 2050, Arup’s Global Energy Systems Leader, Alan Thomson, highlights the need to take an inclusive approach to decarbonisation, ensuring that no part of society is left behind by changes to infrastructure and mobility.

From the floods at the beginning of the year, to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, our anniversary year has certainly been a challenging one for everyone, not just here in Wales but around the globe. What we had planned as a time of celebration has become a period for reflection – we’re thinking creatively about how we can bring the breadth of our skills and knowledge to help our clients and collaborators, not only to face current challenges but also to create and develop opportunities for the future.