5 Key Takeaways

This year’s Global Conference for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats (CTBUH), for which 3lite are both organizational members and members of the Leaders group, was held in Dubai & Abu Dhabi and was an event not to be missed! The conference explored the topic of Polycentric cities, with prominent guests as keynote speakers, including Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Santiago Calatrava, Mounib Hammoud, William Baker, Gregg Pasquarelli, Ole Scheeren and others. Antony Wood, as CEO, and Steve Watts, as Chairman, masterminded a dynamic, educational and business-oriented 6-day conference, combining keynote plenary discussions, specialist panel discussions, networking events and off-site programs visiting some of the most exciting new developments the industry has to offer. As expected, we were blown away.

1.     Networking, but come prepared

3lite’s Anica working the room

The networking potential of the conference is undoubtedly one of the key drivers of such a large and diverse attendance of the industry’s most prominent architects, consultants, developers and contractors. And with over 1300 delegates, most from the world of architecture and consulting, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of rubbing shoulders with management big shots. How? Prepare, prepare, prepare. We studied the delegates list, their companies, researched their past experience and global presence and when D-day(s) came, we hit the ground running with great success in our networking ambitions for the event.

2.     Great profiling of contemporary end-users

An insightful talk on end-user profiling for contemporary buildings

This year’s conference, notably “Trach H” dealt with the topic of ‘The Occupant Experience’ which we found most interesting. Particularly insightly was profiling on today’s end-users of contemporary buildings. Our conclusion from attending a number of panels from this track? Today’s customers are predominantly millenials that are buying experience, rather than simply physical space. It makes perfect sense that the overall experience and comfort we derive from being in a space drives demand, especially since we’re now spending more than 90% of our time indoors. That made the occupier perspective key to concepts such as WELL certification, co-working spaces, and flexibility of the workplace. It will be interesting to see the discussion challenged and taken on from the owner’s perspective, next year.

3.     Antony and Steve as capable pilots

CTBUH Chairman Steve Watts, Partner, alinea consulting, had great ideas on expanding CTBUH’s global influence

Anybody involved or in any way familiar with CTBUH knows that Antony Wood is the backbone behind the organization since his appointment as CEO. Antony continued to demonstrate his drive and vision this year, whilst being open and available to all delegates for feedback and new ideas. It was, however, Steve Watts first chair of the Global Conference and if we may humbly say, he did an amazing job. His inspirational and well-prepared introductory notes on key panels, along with his ideas and initiatives on how to expand CTBUH’s global presence and influence gained him wide recognition amongst attendees. Both Antony and Steve are capable pilots and we can be sure that next year’s 50th anniversary to be held in Chicago, will be the best conference to date.

4.     Developments are happening in Asia

International Commerce Center in West Kowloon, Hong Kong by Sun Hung Kai Properties

There’s no doubt that the conference focuses primarily on tall buildings, and that tall buildings are primarily being built in Asia. The most talked-about current and future projects seem to be coming from South, East and South-East Asia. Developers from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China, and Singapore are the ones driving tall building developments in these parts of the world, and elsewhere such as Western Europe and Australia. Traditionally advanced markets such as the US, Western Europe and Middle-East made less of an impact at this year’s event with few developers (if any) present at this year’s conference from these parts of the globe. Africa and South America had little to no presence whatsoever. Food for thought for the organizers of next year’s event.

5.     6 days – too long?

We only attended the first 4 days in Dubai. And we understand that only some 150 delegates continued on to the second part of the conference in Abu Dhabi, which begs the question – why was the second half of the conference less attractive to attendees? Could it have been an issue of too much time away from business, a higher conference expense, less attractive content, or maybe a little of all of the above? We have to admit that a 6-day conference (not including the travel days involved) was just a little too long and too mind-boggling for us, even with our excellent time management skills. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into the conference structure for next year in Chicago. Maybe short and sweet is the way to go?