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Are current project dimensions leaving you stuck in a 2D world

Are current project dimensions leaving you stuck in a 2D world

Rapidly emerging technologies such as 3D terrestrial laser scanning are creating a new delivery model for construction projects and their subsequent asset management programmes.

As a suite of tools for the constructions industry, owner/operators and governments, Spatial Science technology ticks all the boxes – it's highly accurate, cost effective and provides an opportunity to bring another dimension to construction projects large or small. Post construction, the technology is a powerful enabler for improving asset management of projects and modifications to existing plant and equipment.

This suite of services are made up of technology-based tools which deliver significant project benefits in terms of safety management, cost savings, accuracy, quality and risk and asset management. The rich data that is captured via these digital tools allows project teams at all levels to ‘simplify the complex’ so that delivery across the project becomes more seamless and requires reduced reworking and variations.

Where owner/operators are looking for operational improvements to existing plant or property (rather than new capital investment) the data that is captured allows for shut down work to be "de-risked" by developing a fully operational 3D model of complex infrastructure safely. In particular, this technology can create a much safer way of obtaining data by not having to gain physical entry to confined or dangerous spaces.

Streamlining the construction process

When comparing variations of 3D CAD and laser scanning technology employed in the past, the benefits offered by new levels of project integration and interoperability are changing the way industry looks at spatial data capture.

“At Aurecon, our Land Infrastructure Group has brought together engineering software and high-definition surveying technology to offer a method of converting physical to digital to create efficient and effective 3D CAD/Revit/BIM models for projects,” says Mike Pinkerton Service Line Leader, Spatial Surveying, Aurecon

Across the construction sector, the ability to provide realistic 3D representations of designs in order to view projects in their finished state is increasingly becoming commonplace. From design verification, community consultation to error-checking, 3D visualisations are a practical project tools that can be utilised through the entire project timeline.

“Our group has the capability to supply a completed 3D Revit Model derived from survey data capture which benchmarks our outputs alongside the best of what is occurring around the world,” adds Mike.

This capability means that whatever the project, there is the potential to commence the design phase with a single, accurate and reliable model. This eliminates the need to build up a model from other information sources/designs and as-constructed hard copy plans.

Delivering better urban infrastructure

The social and economic conditions of urbanisation will inevitably vary between communities, throwing up a range of challenges that demand different solutions, tailored to local needs. Rapid urbanisation has dramatic impacts on current cities, threatening their ability to remain financially and socially viable. It is crucial to formulate development plans that create an environment that would underpin long term sustained growth.

Ideally, development plans must be based upon a sound economic model for the city, supported by a sound spatial framework and transport system, creating the space for entrepreneurs to invest in opportunities that provide revenue to the region. An integrated network of infrastructure assets then services the commercial, industrial and residential areas of the city, and these assets maintained through detailed asset management strategies.

Therefore, when developing mass transit and light rail strategic plans, it is critical to understand the potential future expansions of the network and/or mass transit options for integration with the system as a whole.

Using data gathered by Spatial Science applications, integrated transport and land use project advisors are able to assess the feasibility of various corridors for extending an existing or proposed light rail network.

Having access to highly accurate spatial data allows for concept design studies to more effectively:

  • Review current public transport strategy for the corridor and how to most effectively link to the project
  • Drive the concept development strategy in partnership with relevant government/private stakeholders
  • Improve stakeholder liaison by being able to present three dimensional renderings and animations illustrating what the completed project will look like
  • Drive development of concept design plans in sufficient detail to define the overall scope of the project

3D Laser Scanning itself involves the rapid acquisition of survey grade as-built spatial information through millions of laser shots that combine to produce 3D models useful in many applications. This comprehensive approach to capturing one true as-built model for a site leads to greater efficiencies in the design process and typically results in significant reduction of re-work costs at the construction phase.

An accurate 3D CAD model, developed from laser scan survey, provides huge value throughout the lifecycle of an upgrade project by ensuring all work is referenced to one true source of spatial site information and automatically linking all data in one 3D model.

“Looking at construction and transport projects, we aim to supply the completed intelligent 3D model as our deliverable. We can also supply the laser scanned point cloud data that we capture in the field to use directly in the software (e.g. using PCG file format). This facilitates cross-checking of specific detail on the 3D model against the precise survey measurements, or provide realistic background imagery in elevation drawings,” says Mike.

“These modelled outputs result in a reduction in the amount of site visits to check assets and the misinterpretation of assets and dimension from hardcopy plans,” adds Mike.

Accurately analysing projects in a virtual world

The marketplace is responding to the benefits of intelligent three dimensional design models and recognises the benefits that 3D interactive visualisation delivers in the planning, community liaison design and construct and asset management phases.

A 3D interactive visualisation design tool is an immersive and emerging technology that is changing the way we interact with design data. The technology spans across all markets and industries and offers tremendous benefits to clients and our engagement during projects.

“Using the data we capture, we can then develop 3D interactive visualisations. This allows clients to gain a window into three dimensional models, allowing the viewer to explore and interrogate the data that underpins the model. Using the mouse and keyboard, individuals and groups can view the model from any number of virtual cameras to analyse the design,” says Mike.

“Via a web browser or self-contained executable, we can give clients and key stakeholders the ability to move through a project at eye level, or fly around without constraint,” adds Mike.

Project lifecycle

The software used to create these visual tools can be enhanced and improved through the addition of custom functionality. Should a team need to analyse sight distances, dynamically adjust interactive lighting, determine security camera point of view, measure model adherence to council regulations or perhaps perform a shadow analysis – these tools can be added via simple plug-in modules. Such 3D interactive visualisations can be built from the ground up to meet virtually any design challenge.

“Because of the flexibility offered by custom functionality, 3D interactive visualisations are an ideal solution across the construction sector,” says Mike.

“With the ability to accept data in numerous formats, including all industry standard modelling formats, it is possible to cater for industry demands and expectations,” adds Mike.

To date, Aurecon has successfully delivered 3D interactive visualisations to major clients including NSW’s Roads & Maritime Services.

“Roads & Maritime Services in NSW were so impressed by the value this tool delivered that they included the delivery of a virtual model as a specific item in the services brief of a subsequent project,” says Mike.

Super accurate data capture in the field

Aurecon has developed an iPad on-site infrastructure auditing tool which delivers time and cost savings for our clients in monitoring their existing assets.

“The data captured on-site feeds directly into construction documentation, leading to significant time and cost savings in the build phase of upgrading of the assets. The audit application has been deployed into the field to capture site audit information, including photos and mark-ups, at a number of complex infrastructure sites,” says Mike.

“We have found that we are collecting all site information within the application and avoiding using paper based mark-ups.”

From the field to construction – what are the steps?

Aurecon is currently working on an information extract tool that can be used to extract database information to be utilised in Excel standard reports. The audit tool allows Aurecon to quickly communicate with the client to obtain the required approvals to proceed with design construction briefs.

A snapshot of how this works is as follows:

  • The audit information captured is synced back to a secure server and reviewed via a web tool.
  • The client has a copy of this link and can review site audit information collected and respond to any issues identified.
  • Design construction briefs are created from the information collected during the initial site audit and subsequent client conversations

Aurecon has used this application on projects such as the Port Hills Geotechnical monitoring project as part of the Christchurch earthquake recovery effort. In Melbourne, the technology has been employed to monitor survey control points for the CityLink toll road system. For rail networks, the system has gathered data to populate Metro Trains Melbourne asset management system known as “Ellipse”.

Recently, Aurecon inspected 800 drainage pits for the City of Melbourne using the application and the information gathered will be used to inform more detailed pit survey and subsequent drainage network modelling. The information will also be used to update the client’s GIS as a value-add for the project.

The application allows efficiencies as there is no re-entry of data back in the office, and data/images are available in a digital format in the cloud for immediate use and sharing between Aurecon offices, and if necessary, third parties. Tablet devices loaded with the latest GIS software give field staff access to clear and definitive mapping.

Mobile edit services enable field staff to enter data in the field using predefined pick lists and forms, which can be immediately uploaded to databases, removing the need to return to the office for synchronisation. 3G communication networks provided a fast and reliable system for transferring data from servers to mobile devices and back. Field staff always have network connectivity, giving them immediate access to the latest hazard information and helping to protect their health and safety.

On one project in Auckland, New Zealand 3D laser scanning was used very effectively in a complex substation project in the CBD area. The labour, time savings and accuracy brought to the project by using these tools was significant in ensuring successful delivery for the client.

“Our experience with major construction projects means our team can undertake surveys of all complexities and scales,” says Mike. “Whether establishing horizontal and vertical control, or survey of existing conditions via set-out surveys and as-constructed surveys, we gather data that fulfils quality assurance and compliance requirements and provides a permanent record for future maintenance and enhancement.”

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