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Deep modularity: adaptable commercial configurations for transportation hubs

Travelling long distances often requires use of different modes of transport and can include stopovers of several hours at interchange hubs. The fluxes of people moving between systems at hubs is both a challenge and an opportunity. These intensely-used spaces must on one hand facilitate the ready and simple movement of people in vast numbers, but on the other hand the volume of passenger movement creates commercially favourable circumstances.

The provision of flexible and adaptable forms that respond to the needs of people flowing through them would enable interchange hubs to become a more positive part of their journeys. A space that can reconfigure itself around shifting needs has the potential to create serendipitous experiences that enhance the travel experience. To achieve this, infrastructure that can adapt and change is required. Additionally, to make adaptation and change simple and affordable, it must be done non-destructively. And to assure that it is sustainable, it should incorporate circular economy concepts. This study will explore the development of modular units that can be adapted to changing needs and be (re)deployed with minimal disruption to business operations.

This project is funded under Arup’s Global Research Challenge 2016-17.

Increasing passenger numbers creates increasing demands on transportation infrastructure, especially interchange hubs. This project aims to develop a strategic vision and local business models that will facilitate the adaptability of platform-side commercial provision in transportation hubs. The adopted approach is to use interchangeable modular units that are designed to reduce disruption of refurbishment and be re-deployable, with the aim of maximising value creation to consumers, tenants, and infrastructure providers.

Units would be readily deployed and recovered, reconfigured, possibly recombined and redeployed. The proposed vision for modular unit re-deployment and reuse considers layers: the capital intensive elements (structure) that can be repaired; the services that can be reconditioned or remanufactured; and the situation-specific elements that can be recycled and replaced locally. Life cycle costs are expected to be low and sustainability is expected to be high as modular capital value is recovered through a circular economy model.

There are uncertainties regarding the format of the modular units, the extent of their decomposition when moving between applications, their supply support networks, and the value propositions they would enable in each application. This study will help clarify these aspects.

This work can help develop a framework for multi-faceted value-added services in the design of commercial transportation hubs using interchangeable and re-deployable modular units that can be adapted and applied globally.

The knowledge generated in this project can provide insights about the best approaches to implementing multi-functionality and circular economy into interchange hubs, including aspects related to the supply chain support and design principles. We will identify available and projected technologies and supply methods for deploying modular approaches and select the options that have the potential for helping to fulfil the proposed vision.