At the Year in Infrastructure conference, hosted by infrastructure software company Bentley Systems, audiences were told that adoption of digital tools for infrastructure delivery and operations will only accelerate after the experience of COVID-19.
With global investment in infrastructure as method of economic recovery coming together with the impetus for more sustainable methods of construction and mobility, efficiencies through using digital tools are becoming unavoidable.
Through the use of digital twins for modelling and simulations in the design and construction phase, or for monitoring asset and network performance in the operational stage, more environmentally friendly materials can be used, waste can be reduced, while costs can be reduced and timelines shortened.
In addition, as COVID-19 has demonstrated, projects will still need to continue even when workforces are dispersed, either working from home, or across countries without being able to easily meet in person.
These factors have meant that digital tools such as those supplied by Bentley Systems are invaluable for infrastructure builders, managers, and operators.
Another macro factor that is impacting on the adoption of digital tools in the infrastructure space is the possibilities of big data and IoT. With more data being collected than ever, modelling and simulation software will be needed to make sense of this data and allow it to be seen as a productive resource.
One example of the benefit of digital twins can be seen in the adoption of digital engineering tools in the design and construction of the world’s tallest rail pier girder bridge in northern India. Constructed by Indian Railways, the railway bridge is required to support high-speed and broad gauge trains for the next century in difficult terrain. Seismic events and strong winds were also a concern for the 141 metre tall bridge.
On of the Year in Infrastructure Awards finalists, Indian Railways is using Bentley tools including OpenRail, PLAXIS, and STAAD, and the project has been able to make savings of US$24.61 million ($34.58m). These efficiencies were found through the better selection of types of materials and construction methodologies.
Once the bridge is complete, embedded instruments and drone surveys will be used to monitor the health of the bridge remotely, with a digital twin used to simulate how the bridge is behaving and the effect of inputs. This will ensure the infrastructure manager will be able to make timely decisions to ensure the sustainability of the bridge.