By Michael Warren

In order to keep pace with aging infrastructure and growth, the transportation industry needs to continually bring innovative solutions to stakeholders and the general public. Advancement in digital innovations span across the spectrum of planning, design, and construction, as well as the operations and maintenance of infrastructure assets.

AECOM professionals have adopted an integrated approach to best leverage the most current digital technology tools. With many aspects of the nation’s infrastructure reaching the end of its asdesigned life, and with the purchasing power of construction dollars continuing to be stretched, developing systematic processes for determining the most cost-effective infrastructure investment strategy is critical. At the same time, consideration of life-cycle asset management is key to successful owner stewardship of public dollars.

The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) for infrastructure, or what AECOM calls Civil Infrastructure Information Modelling (CIIM), is a key focal point in our engineering services delivery. CIIM provides enhanced design, cost, and operational certainty through 3D data models of intelligent components. Lessons learned from the vertical construction industry can be applied to horizontal construction. Adopting this technology for civil infrastructure is essential to moving forward.

Design Certainty

3D technology and software have existed for decades. Introducing newer and more comprehensive technology provides enhanced design certainty (in particular for geometric aspects) on a project whether greenfield, brownfield, or existing conditions inventory and assessment. For example, BIM with LiDAR reality capture elevates the life-cycle management of the asset from the start. The next phases in this workflow—cost certainty and operational certainty—can be evaluated early and intelligently in the decision and analysis process. Geo-spatially referenced data capture of existing conditions and as-built geometry (via laser scanning and other methods) provides geometric accuracy and can provide component data for integration into the 3D data model, or what can be referred to as digital twin.

Cost Certainty

The workflow for design and construction needs to support all stages of the asset management process: condition assessment and data capture, data analysis, deficiency identification, cost estimating, capital investment planning and project prioritization, and OPEX budget modeling. In the past, complex tasks like organizational and operational planning, space optimization, and climate change resilience were time consuming, but with digital innovations, can be achieved much more quickly with more in-depth analysis. Each of these variables can be connected to help inform capital project development and prioritization. Data mining schemes can provide outputs and relevant parameters can be selected to suit the needs of the owner. Providing the greatest level of interoperability between common data environment platforms for effective project collaboration and delivery is key.

Operational Certainty

The benefits of an innovative approach that includes digital and cost certainty from project inception will allow for more informed operational planning and life-cycle costing and budgeting. Advanced CIIM facilitates the study of multiple operations and maintenance options quickly using real-world simulated influences to find the optimum solution. Systems coordination can be accomplished utilizing CIIM and can provide the ability to produce quantity surveys, takeoffs, and cost estimates at any time during the asset’s lifecycle, helping an owner track, analyze and forecast quantities and costs more effectively.

BIM and CIIM centric approaches become the tie that bind. The digital collaboration of BIM and CIIM technology leaders, engineers, information technology specialists, systems and asset management analysts, constructors and operators, creates a holistic modelled system for reliable operational certainty of the infrastructure asset over the long term.

Innovative and advanced digital approaches for the inventory, planning, design, construction, and operations and maintenance of our infrastructure assets is essential. AECOM is proud to be a leader in the adoption and use of these technologies along with industry partners and infrastructure owners, with the best interests of the travelling public and users in mind throughout.

Michael Warren is director of digital practice & technology at AECOM. See more stories about transportation design and construction industry technology and innovation in ARTBA’s “Smart Design & Construction” supplement.