Coega Kop Water Treatment Works, South Africa

Using 3D, virtual reality and collaborative digital engineering tools to deliver a well-integrated human-centric solution

“The collaborative, multidisciplinary design of complex infrastructure is challenging but, through the use of digital tools such as 3D design software and virtual reality, Aurecon was able to create a solution that we believe will benefit the people of Nelson Mandela Bay for years to come,” – Brendon Theunissen, Aurecon Technical Director.

Watch the full video (33:00)

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) is pursuing a major groundwater scheme to diversify and supplement its existing water supply. NMBM appointed Aurecon to provide professional engineering services for planning, design, procurement documentation and construction administration for a project to abstract and treat water sourced from the Coega Kop wellfield; located about 30 km north-east of Port Elizabeth, adjacent to the existing Coega Kop Reservoir.

The groundwater from the Coega Kop wellfield contains relatively high levels of dissolved iron and manganese, which require removal to make the water acceptable for public consumption. The Coega Kop project will employ biofiltration technology to provide an affordable, sustainable and reliable treatment solution for this purpose. At a treatment capacity of 20 ML/d this will be only the second major municipal iron and manganese biofiltration plant of its kind in South Africa.

The design involved rigorous and highly collaborative interaction between the client, engineers, architects, geohydrologists, environmental practitioners, 3D software modellers, virtual reality (VR) programmers and other professionals. It resulted in a well-integrated human-centric solution that strategically prioritised the needs of operating personnel to enable them to concentrate on the task of providing high quality water to the people of Nelson Mandela Bay.

3D modelling facilitated simultaneous design collaboration between engineering and architectural disciplines and enabled the development of a VR model, allowing technical and non-technical stakeholders to experience (first-hand and at scale) a lifelike representation of the plant before any construction activities commenced. More than offering just an aesthetically pleasing output, the VR model served as a powerful and enabling tool to:

  • Discuss and obtain input and preferences from stakeholders such as future maintenance and operations staff
  • Refine complex parts of the design
  • Undertake clash detection
  • Ensure ease of use for maintenance, dismantling, access, overhead lifting, etc.
  • Improve the design in terms of constructability
  • Aid the construction team in their planning and envisaging of the required product
  • Facilitate early operator training
  • Explain the project to external stakeholders (financers, project managers, politicians, etc.)


“The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is on track to achieve its goal of providing safe and clean drinking water from the Coega Kop groundwater scheme, and our team has gained immeasurable experience of the benefits of using 3D, VR, and collaborative tools to improve our human-centric approach to infrastructure design,” says Theunissen.

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