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Digital Technologies Save UK’s HS2 Project at least £3 Million in Costs

The Skanska-Costain-STRABAG Joint Venture (SCS JV), is utilizing 3D GIS, BIM and Drone technologies to design, construct and deliver a High Speed 2 (HS-2) railway project for the UK. The use of digital technologies has helped the stakeholders save at least 30% of their time in planning, 20% time in design review, and up to £3M in costs.

© Cotton, Marcus

BY GW Prime

HS2 – World’s Leading Infrastructure Project

The Department for Transport, United Kingdom, has initiated one of the world’s leading infrastructure projects – the High-Speed Railway (HS2) project, which will connect London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester via a new ‘Y’ shaped network of 360 km/h (225 mph) tracks. The HS-2 project is inclusive of tunnels, bridges, and earthworks and will drive economic growth and support towns and cities across the UK. The Skanska-Costain-STRABAG Joint Venture (SCS JV) was awarded the contract to design and construct the project. Phase-1 of this two-phase project is currently under way, which is the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) phase that covers design, development and planning. Phase-2 of the project, that is, the construction part, is scheduled to begin in 2023.

The main challenge in completing the multi-billion-pound project is to ensure collaboration, coordination and good decision-making among the numerous teams working together. To make the best possible decisions in the design and construction process and for stakeholders to communicate effectively during the duration of the project, the SCS JV has decided to use integrated geospatial and BIM (GEOBIM) solutions. The SCS JV is using GEOBIM solutions to formulate the conceptual design scheme and accommodate the challenging project requirements.

Drones, integrated BIM and GIS (GEOBIM) solutions to improve collaboration

In the initial phase of the planning and designing of High Speed-2, SenSat made use of fixed-wing autonomous drones to survey and map the route. The autonomous drones are miniature planes equipped with high-resolution cameras, with an ability to take thousands of detailed pictures across the HS-2 routes. To plan and design the project, in three weeks during March 2018, the drones flew over 23 km every day on pre-programmed autonomous routes. In the process, the autonomous drones collected 18.2 billion measurement points – multiple gigabyte files – with an accuracy of 30mm-55mm. The points collected were combined and integrated to create full 3D digital topographical surveys/maps of the rail route. The 3D digital map of the routes provided the HS-2 contractors an accurate map of the construction environment and were used for comprehensive planning, design and engineering to optimize project delivery.

GEOBIM Solutions saves £3 Million!

In the plan and design phase of the project, 3D GIS and BIM were employed to share and develop a deeper understanding of the HS-2 route and the existing infrastructure, to plan and design the new assets accurately. SCS JV used Esri’s ArcGIS Enterprise platform to manage, store, process, and visualize data and develop supporting web-applications to help enable the design. GIS was used to visualize details about the location of above surface and sub-surface infrastructure and to analyze how different elements interact with each other. BIM, on the other hand, was used to get the model of existing infrastructure (buildings and structures).

Because GIS does not provide 3D model information and BIM does not provide the environment context, SCS JV created a solution called ‘GEOBIM,’ wherein 3D GIS data – Esri’s 3D City Information Model – was integrated with high-quality 3D BIM data. The solution provided the stakeholders with a common platform to visualize the 3D model of the HS-2 route, existing infrastructure assets (including buildings and road infrastructure), and the surrounding landscape. The GEOBIM solution allowed employees to perform analyses and query the models created in a common visualization environment. The solution provided stakeholders with contextual information to explore the route and features of the HS-2 project in 3D, which helped the SCS JV team members to collaborate and ensure successful delivery of a conceptual design of the HS-2 rail project.

In addition, SCS JV used Bentley’s Open RailTM solution, inclusive of OpenRail Designer, OpenRoadsTM Designer, OpenBuildingsTM Designer, ProjectWise, and AssetWiseTM. By leveraging Bentley’s integrated applications, the stakeholders were able to automate the manual processes such as design of rail, portals, tunnels, ventilation shafts, retaining structures, bridges, and earthworks. Bentley Systems OpenRailTM solutions enabled interoperability among different datasets, improving productivity and efficiencies in the engineering process. Also, the iModels that were created optimized data analysis for accurate cost and carbon estimations, to enable better project understanding for informed decision-making and establishing and maintaining BIM in full construction lifecycle.

Value Proposition of using GEOBIM solution

The use of integrated geospatial and BIM data to create 3D models improved collaboration, streamlined project delivery, provided accurate visualization of surrounding areas and improved decision-making. Using geospatial and BIM solutions, a common data environment (CDE) was created, which provided the stakeholders involved in the plan and design phase of the project to see the conceptual designs of the entire project in real-time.

The integrated 3D view of the conceptual design enabled the SCS JV to view and evaluate the BIM models, enhance design assurance, and resolve potential costly errors to save an estimated £1 million. Using Bentley systems’ integrated BIM applications, the SCS JV was able to generate intelligent 3D models with 75% less resources and save more than £600,000! Using GEOBIM solutions, SCS JV was able to improve information flow and collaboration work.

The Future – A Digital Twin of HS-2

In the future, the stakeholders want to move beyond the 3D dimension to 4D for time; 5D for quantities, cost and budget estimation; 6D for energy consumption; and 7D for asset management in operations and maintenance phase of the construction lifecycle. Additionally, the end goal of the project is to create a Digital Twin of the built environment for planning, designing, construction, and operations and maintenance.