The client Transport Authority is currently in the process of constructing what will be the world’s third largest road tunnel in the proximity of a city. This 21km tunnel is budgeted at £3 billion and is expected to take 14 years to build. As part of this massively complex programme, the client wanted to significantly reduce the amount of time and effort required for the validation and testing of all site data and as-built drawings for all technology devices. Current 3D BIM market solutions were proving to be prohibitively expensive to achieve the quality of visualisation required or lacked the quality of visualisation at an affordable price.
Nicander set up a team with Teesside University and the client team, to explore options to deliver a low cost and high-quality Digital Twin 3D visualisation tool. The solution has been developed using an agile software development process, and continues its evolution of functionality detailed in the product backlog. By using cost effective gaming technology and using the right software development techniques we have been able to achieve a very high-quality digital twin 3D visualisation at an affordable price.
Nicander’s solution improves the quality of the overall testing service [getting it right first time] and has contributed to better communication between all teams and stakeholders during the extensive construction process. The use of BIM reduces costs because information is being re-used in the project’s various phases. Moreover, the work associated with planning, assessment of material consumption and follow-up is facilitated. Since a major part of project planning is carried out with digital 3D models, traditional drawings are not needed, which also reduces costs in the long run.
Digital twin 3D models enable effective coordination and reduce the risk for collision between different construction components. This means that a safer structure can be built by discovering potential defects and shortcomings at an early phase. The same information can be re-used, structured and updated more easily during the operation and maintenance phase with the use of databases and models.
Nicander’s solution is enabling the client to regularly test and validate the BIM data well in advance of construction so that the client can be assured that all devices are at the right locations and orientation and are of the correct standard and quality to function as expected (lane control signs at the correct height and angle, sprinklers with correct spray coverage, cameras with full views, etc.).
The construction programme is being delivered by multiple contractors using multiple BIM solutions. Nicander’s solution is enabling the client to pull together all of these BIM data sources into a single visualisation so that the client can understand the overall programme to ensure all contractors are aligned in progress. It enables early stakeholder engagement in all aspects of both the construction programme and the planning and design of operational procedures that combine all stakeholders in the process. The use of the solution will enable comprehensive stakeholder and operator training both at the start of operation and for effective ongoing practice.
One of the key issues with any system such as this, is the amount of time it takes to configure the main control system with all of the site data once it has been fully validated following the approval of the as-built drawings. The configuration of the 15,000 devices in a typical traffic system would take approximately 3-person years to implement manually, but given the very strict time constraints between the provision of the final validated data and the tunnel opening, this would create significant risks to conduct all testing necessary to ensure everything is operating safely and securely prior to opening. The tunnel would only open when the system’s safety is fully assured. The penalties relating to late opening for such infrastructure typically runs into the $millions. As part of our solution, we have developed a sophisticated algorithm to automate the configuration of the system using the approved BIM data. In this way, we can be assured that once the BIM data has been validated, we can configure the system with all devices [on the map] at the correct location, orientation, shape, size, etc. in a matter of minutes rather than years. This will save the client significant costs typically associated with a manual configuration, but more importantly will maximise the time available to test the system to ensure the safe and secure opening of the tunnel.
The solution will be available well beyond the extensive testing phases of construction, where the system can be used for showing live operational states of all infrastructure that would improve operational management services, delivering additional commercial benefits for client teams and operational partners, such as the Fire Department, the Police, the Media and Contractors.
The solution supports improved incident process definition and management as it allows plan designers to visualise the effects of the incident management plan by showing simulated operational states, therefore reducing the amount of effort required to develop and test the plans.
The implementation of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technology is planned to further enhance client operational improvements and cost benefits to be delivered by the innovation.
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