While Revitalizing a Roadway, Foth Team Honed Collaboration Processes That Ease Remote Work6 May, 2020 By: Cadalyst Staff
During the University Avenue project in Iowa, the Foth team learned lessons about sharing 3D models and engineering data that are now helping employees stay productive during the pandemic.
In the current public health landscape, businesses in many industries have had to reduce their operations, or shut them down entirely. That’s not the case in heavy civil and roadway construction, according to Bentley Systems. Francois Valois, vice-president of civil engineering for Bentley Systems, reported during a press conference last week that it’s “business as usual” in most U.S. states; a few states are even accelerating projects to take advantage of the reduced volume of traffic on the roads, he noted.
To keep advancing projects during this crisis, however, “we have to do things slightly different,” Valois said. “The ... need to accelerate and keep construction going is there. We have this enormous infrastructure investment deficit that we’ve accumulated over years — it’s billions and billions of dollars — so any time we stop [construction], we’re essentially making the problem worse. And we have to [work] faster, better, safer, and with new constraints,” he continued. Those constraints include many employees working from home, funding challenges (those nearly empty roads mean far fewer gas-tax dollars are coming in), and of course, social distancing on job sites: “We can no longer interact around a printed plan … so we have to find new ways to work,” Valois said.
Foth Infrastructure & Environment, a professional services consulting company, succeeded in doing just that during the complicated revitalization of a high-traffic arterial corridor in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The University Avenue project garnered Foth the Bentley Systems’ 2019 Year in Infrastructure Award in the Roads and Bridges category, and also helped team members learn new tools and workflows that are serving them well during the pandemic.
Foth’s revitalization project for the Iowa Corridor, Cedar Falls, Iowa. Image source: Foth.
“Going digital, working collaboratively among multiple disciplines, and executing workflows across dispersed teams was critical to the success of the University Avenue project,” said Aaron Moniza, senior client manager for the Foth-CLE Engineering Group. “And in the current environment we’re all facing, obviously the ability to work remotely and collaboratively is more essential than ever,” he continued.
High Visibility and High Pressure
The Foth team faced a variety of complicating factors on this project, including two bid packages and intense public scrutiny. Stakeholders were many and varied: The roadway serves residential, public utilities, and commercial traffic, with more than 100 businesses located along the corridor. The City Council wanted to address a range of concerns with the revitalization, including improving traffic flow and safety, ensuring bicycle and pedestrian access and mobility, limiting upfront capital investment and operational costs, and enhancing commercial access, among others.
“This almost-$40-million project transformed a two-mile, six-lane high-speed corridor with failing infrastructure, safety issues, and mobility deficiencies into a four-lane complete street corridor that improved safety, increased operational efficiencies, created multimodal linkages, and really spurred economic revitalization of this corridor,” said Moniza.
In addition, the owner requested a fast-track schedule, requiring the team to move efficiently: “To execute, we had multiple phases, multiple teams, working across multiple locations, and this required enhanced collaboration and tools to facilitate,” Moniza explained. “With 100 members in seven offices working together for over five years to execute this endeavor, it was important that we had the right communication and design applications.”
Getting Approvals and Getting to Work
The Foth team used drones and mobile scanning to collect data, then “the team put that engineering data to work by establishing 3D models in an open, connected data environment based on ProjectWise [engineering project collaboration software],” Moniza said. This helped the team manage, store, and share the more than 21,000 project files, totaling some 122 GB of data. To communicate with the public and other stakeholders, the team used MicroStation and LumenRT to create 3D models and visualizations.
“Given our dispersed team, [ProjectWise] helped bring consistency in document management, digital workflows, and file naming. We could find the engineering data we needed in minutes ... and we were always confident the most updated information was all in one place,” Moniza observed. For change management during the design phase, they used the Audit Trail tool extensively. “It enabled us to quickly diagnose the root cause of issues, identifying when an error was made, and by whom,” he said.
According to Moniza, use of a single 3D model was central to the accuracy and efficiency of the design process. “Our team used BIM to join the gap between technologies and processes to deliver an optimized project,” he said. Foth first used OpenRoads, OpenFlows, and other tools to create multidiscipline 3D models for roadway, grading, utilities, etc., then imported those component models into OpenRoads for assembly into a coordinated BIM model of the entire roadway conceptual design.
Foth also used Bentley applications for traffic modeling, corridor simulations, utility coordination, and comparing signal-controlled intersections with roundabouts, which facilitated collaborative engineering processes. “These processes enabled quick analysis of numerous design alternatives to determine an optimal roadway solution,” Moniza reported. “In addition, our 3D model was provided as part of the project bidding packages ... [which] resulted in the winning bids coming in under original estimates, saving the owner more than $500,000.” In addition, Foth’s design delivered an ROI estimated at $32 million in savings to the public of Cedar Falls, to be realized over the next 25 years.
The 3D model also helped improve the construction phase for field personnel performing construction administration, Moniza said. “Foth established the 3D model as a digital twin, with data flowing to and from the model as field personnel identified and resolved issues onsite. Beyond construction, the engineering information contained in the digital twin will provide significant value to future operations and asset management, as these digital assets can intelligently convey critical information for performance improvements to the owner,” he noted.
The Bonus Benefits of Streamlining
“Using Bentley applications on this project allowed us to cut our design schedule in half,” Moniza reported, saving one-and-a-half years. “Bentley’s open applications streamlined workflows, and facilitated coordinated design to meet these timelines. The integrated digital platform helped teams remotely manage data, and bring consistency in document management and engineering processes, while also providing traceability for design change management to diagnose and alleviate issues within hours instead of weeks.”
The Foth team found that fine-tuning processes and modernizing workflows increased the company’s ability to collaborate internally, and with our stakeholders — on the University Avenue project, and beyond. “We are seeing those benefits under the current situation,” Moniza confirmed. “Our entire organization has been able to seamlessly transition to working remotely, and continue to serve our clients, staying connected, keeping projects moving and on track, and most importantly, being accessible when needed.”
About the Author: Cadalyst Staff
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