As urban planners integrate multiple eco-friendly systems into their infrastructure designs that allow data from multiple systems to feed into analysis software, the opportunity for creating cost-saving, efficient infrastructure grows exponentially.
During the next 20 years, population growth and urbanization will push current infrastructure to its limits. Transportation, pollution reduction, waste removal, and flood protection systems are critical to the functionality and livability of urban centers; however, tight budgets are a major impediment in producing efficient and cost effective green infrastructure. Advances in engineering software provide budget-friendly solutions to limiting the design-build costs, as well as long-term operational and maintenance expenses, involved in eco-friendly civil engineering projects.
Reactive 3D Modeling
Engineers face the challenge of presenting infrastructure proposals must so they are understood by professionals from all fields, most without any engineering training or hands-on experience in design-build projects. The standard method of using individual 2D tools to convey project details tends to be ineffective when communicating ideas to the untrained eye. The adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) into the civil engineering space has changed the way we structure ideas and collaborate with others. Tools such as Civil 3D can provide quick results to many what-if scenarios that may be presented to a meeting of stakeholders.
Using Reactive 3D Modeling
Reactive 3D modeling tools provide civil engineer the means to bring projects to life when meeting with stakeholders. For example, a highway expansion project presentation can now include items such as:
These tools introduce and visually display the effects of different factors for everyone to see and discuss. This reduces the need to explain abstract engineering and design concepts, thus allowing those outside the design professions to contribute their specialty expertise during the project planning process.
Architectural and construction professionals have nearly replaced the CAD with BIM so knowledge of BIM processes is now necessary for participation in these fields. As a result, other industries are beginning to take notice and looking at how this updated approach can add value to their projects and proposals.
Advanced Data Collection
Data collection is a core component of smart infrastructure. In 2011, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) installed depth and flow monitoring devices in the sewer drains that featured a single drainpipe. The purpose was to track capacity before and after their test runs of curbside gardens aimed to reduce flooding and sewer overflow, which is a major issue in water pollution. They then built 70 gardens into sidewalk areas around these marked sewers.
By using information showing how the inclusion of a stone gabion would help speed water absorption and how including curbside runoffs into the street drastically reduced flooding of crops, the city maximized the use of each tiny garden space.
Across all the demonstration areas, the data showed this new green infrastructure reduced storm water runoff entering the sewers by at least 20 percent. New York City has since ordered thousands more to be built over the next several years. This solution both reduces chances of flooding while significantly reducing the amount of possible pollution of New York City’s rivers and waterways. There is also no reason the data collected from the sewers, including the patterns of storm water throughout the City, cannot be used in other projects. Every project has the potential to add more data for other agencies to utilize in projects of their own.
The technology to build better infrastructure utilizing advanced modeling software fed data from multiple sources is compelling, but it is only as effective as the ability of the people using it to work together. Data use and share practices, day-to-day workflows, and general business practices must evolve to profit from the results. Flood data from the curb garden initiative can increase the efficiency and save money on a roadway project that might otherwise have ignored new water table data and patterns.
An organization must begin by taking small steps if they wish to benefit from these technologies. Important steps to creating an organizational culture of understanding these resources exist and how to work collaboratively to procure them include:
The market to utilize this technology and organizational psychology is here today. During the course of the next 15 years, the NYC DEP is planning to spend $2.4 billion in public and private funding of green infrastructure installations, and another $2.9 billion in grey infrastructure upgrades to further reduce waterway pollution.
What ways can your organization utilize advanced data collection and reactive 3D modeling to be more efficient and effective?