The ability to visualize the built environment is critical to the design and construction of civil construction projects. While 3D simulation is widely used in the design phase of infrastructure projects, it is still gaining momentum in the construction phase.
Advancements in 3D and 4D simulation technology, however, now make it possible for project stakeholders to better visualize the construction process of complex buildings and infrastructure projects. This advanced visual communication provides a valuable asset to the building design process and is one that civil engineering projects should adopt.
More construction project sites now use virtual design and construction simulation. Virtual simulation provides a 3D and 4D computer-generated representation and offers a very realistic view of buildings, bridges, infrastructure, and other graphical models.
Prefabrication is the designing and manufacturing of assemblies under factory conditions, then transporting them to—and assembling them on—a construction site. The technique is most widely used for concrete and steel sections in structures where a particular part or form is repeated many times.
In civil engineering, prefabrication plays a key role in the construction of bridges, roads, tunnels, and more. Prefabrication can be used for:
cantilevered decks of elevated bridges in highway projects
parapets of expressways and road curbs
precast girder units and beams for elevated roadways, tracks, viaducts, and pedestrian footbridges
decks for long span bridges
tunnel linings, especially for tunnels formed by tunnel boring machine
noise barrier panels
overhanging ducts and service channels for underground facilities
storm water discharge culverts
and many other elements of a civil design project
Contributing Factors to the Prefabrication Trend in Civil Engineering
The main reasons for prefabrication construction is to reduce the overall time period of construction time on a project. This time savings can yield significant budget savings.
The process begins by either leveraging the included Civil Engineering Catalogues (i.e. smart tools, reusable components, and IFC-compliant objects which speed up the creation of the skeleton), or the design can start from scratch.
The AEC industry is moving toward embracing a collaborative environment. It is crucial that owners, designers, engineers, and fabricators have simultaneous and real-time access to design models and project data.
AEC business leaders are advocating for Building Information Modeling (BIM) as the future of infrastructure projects worldwide.
Adopting BIM technologies into the civil design process will enable stakeholders to instantly collaborate with each other on an integrated design platform. BIM can provide for digital sharing and collaborating of models, instead of individually working from drawings.
As the global population continues to rise, worldwide spending on civil engineering projects is expected to grow. Emerging markets such as China, the Middle East, and Latin America will be looking to facilitate rapid increases in infrastructure projects quickly and cost-effectively.
To keep pace, civil engineering and infrastructure professionals will need to address industry challenges, such as managing costs and schedules, reducing waste, and improving efficiency.
One key reason for inefficiency in AEC infrastructure projects is fragmentation. An integrated, collaborative environment would eliminate fragmentation, address business challenges, achieve higher quality, and improve efficiency.
The reconstruction of the Yanggao South Road covered the area between the current Century Highway and the Pujian Road cross-route bridge, and measures a total of 1.95km (1.2 mi).
The road, tunnel structure, Zhangjiabin Bridge, rain sewage pipeline, traffic sign and lines, signal lights, ventilation, monitoring system, power transmission and distribution, architecture, greening, and related equipment—as well as the initial greening and pipeline relocation—cost RMB ¥1.455 Billion in construction and installation, with the total investment amounting to RMB ¥2.47 Billion [USD $386 Million].
The Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform version R2015x was selected as the BIM platform for the entire process. SMEDI realized the following benefits by adopting the 3DEXPERIENCE platform:
SMEDI is particularly strong in designing bridges, having designed almost all the major bridges in Shanghai. Of course, SMEDI’s work goes way beyond the city of Shanghai. One notable example is the Ganjiang Second Bridge in Jiangxi Province, which has a “fish-like” design that fits very well within the surrounding landscape.
The complex structure of the bridge comprises of a steel upper part, a concrete lower structure and in the middle, a mixed concrete and steel section.
The Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute (SMEDI), one of China’s top municipal engineering companies, has completed 12,000 projects including water treatment plants, as well as road, bridge, rail, urban landscape, fuel gas and geotechnical engineering projects.
Compass spoke with Lv Wei Zhang, association chief engineer in SMEDI’s IT Center, and Junwei Wu, deputy director of SMEDI’s BIM Center, about their work to develop IT solutions for civil engineering’s unique challenges.
COMPASS: What challenges are SMEDI facing in executing its work?
LV WEI ZHANG: In China, it is common for major infrastructure projects to be carried out with design and construction happening in parallel. Typically, only 50% of the project is designed when construction begins. During construction, owners are able to plan the rest of the project with greater precision. So they modify their design as the project evolves. This is one of the ways to adjust projects.
Despite these benefits, there are challenges in adopting BIM.
One major obstacle is that it involves changing people’s habits, often needing to overcome a significant degree of resistance.
When new ways of working are proposed within a corporation, this can result in internal clashes or even paralysis while processes are reconfigured. Bottlenecks can also occur while designs are being refined and assessed.