Above: The partially completed Kellyville Sydney Metro station, captured on September 16, 2018.
This is the second in a three-part blog series exploring how new 3D geocontent is changing the way infrastructure gets built in modern cities.
We’ll be demo’ing our wide-scale, frequently refreshed 3D datasets at Esri Australia's User Conference, Ozri, in November. To book a meeting with us at Ozri in Sydney (13 Nov), Brisbane (16 Nov), Melbourne (21 Nov), get in touch.
THE DIGITISATION OF INFRASTRUCTURE
Cities around the world are faced with the challenge of rapid population growth, where an ever greater number of people are living and working in urban areas. According to the UN, 66% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050. This creates an immediate need to alleviate resource pressure and future-proof the sustainability of our cities. Infrastructure is the pulse of any city, and it’s vital that the design of infrastructure take a broader, holistic approach across industry sectors, policy makers, technology enablers, and citizens.
One idea to address this infrastructure challenge is to fast-track information sharing and collaboration, accelerating the critical path of “digitisation” by determining what tools and datasets to are best equipped to keep us engaged and up-to-date.
The digitisation of epochs past — remember, CAD was once considered revolutionary — is being replaced by an onslaught of emerging technologies. Today’s digital tools include everything from advanced geospatial models and data to manufacturing applications, robotics, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, advanced materials, and IoT sensor networks.
The increasing adoption of 5D BIM will further revolutionise the industry, building on and extending 3D spatial design to include time and cost considerations over the lifecycle of a project. China — a country that’s rapidly developing infrastructure to face challenges with population growth and development head on — was one of the first to utilise 5D BIM in a major project.
Governments, planners, and construction and engineering companies are all asking: How can we get smarter? How can we prepare ourselves with greater insights during the planning and preliminary design stages? What do we need to do to manage the entire lifecycle of delivering capital projects and minimising delays? And as infrastructure moves through the process of digitisation, where does spatial data fit into the digital construction spectrum?
Above: Nearmap's 3D mesh in ArcGIS showing a line of sight visualisation.
LOCATION DATA: A NATURAL PARTNER FOR DIGITAL CONSTRUCTION WORKFLOWS
When planning, designing, bidding on, or evaluating the feasibility of a new project, construction and engineering companies need to understand the context of the existing built and natural environment surrounding their design. In particular, they need to have a clear, accurate model of what’s currently on the ground to inform the scenario evaluation process — often called “optioneering” or “constructioneering” — to understand the potential impact of various design scenarios on the existing environment.
“Construction companies need a better way to deliver capital projects,” says Kevin Kwok, Nearmap’s technical product manager for 3D content. “Having a ‘digital twin’ of the physical environment is critical.” Such a digital twin can help planners visualise the context of their proposed structures, providing a facsimile of reality so that the bulk of planning and feasibility work can be done remotely, without the need for multiple site visits.
“3D gives you a fully immersive experience. It is the real context of the real world,” Kwok continues. “Imagine flattening the real world coordinates onto a piece of paper or onto a 2D map. You start losing a lot of context that you would otherwise get from 3D information presented in a 360° model. This is where 3D technology and the advance in 3D modelling comes into play. Because immediately you can communicate the context and allow a human-like navigation style to location information, which traditional 2D maps simply can’t provide.”
SCENARIO EVALUATION → With a wide-scale capture of reality, urban planners can test numerous city designs without leaving the office, and construction companies can estimate excavation costs without lifting a shovel. Other logistical considerations, such as minimising property acquisitions to reduce impact on homeowners, is far easier and more efficient with current 3D reality models to envision multiple scenarios. This is also important during the tendering process, as the ability to immediately call up a current 3D visualisation is an indispensable advantage in calculating cost and labor projections to develop a competitive bid.
DATA UNIFICATION → Putting everyone on the same map — literally — helps unify geospatial and other datasets into a common operating environment (COE). This is an essential step that eliminates silos, streamlines communication, and speeds up information delivery. Time wasted trying to synthesize multiple datasets can delay the start of a project, and decayed data can cause costly mistakes.
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT → It’s also an invaluable tool in evaluating the impact on the current built environment and surrounding communities, and a powerful enhancement for proposals: with a 3D reality model inside a proposal, the client can instantly grasp the scope and impact of the plan. “The true value of 3D goes beyond a desktop and beyond the data analysis. It has a strong component in stakeholder engagement and bringing people together to actually understand the problem in its physical form. Having a 3D model of a physical environment allows a non-technical user trying to understand a scenario that is being presented,” says Kwok.
In sum, 3D is a powerful data partner in the construction digitisation process for three key reasons:
- It allows you to make sure all stakeholders are on the same page. Working with current, detailed data allows them to visualise and evaluate the feasibility of multiple scenarios and solutions.
- It helps organisations unify data sets, by providing a transparent digital version of reality that can be referenced both technically and in communication.
- It empowers people to communicate with greater authority, more context, and more relevance. When people see 3D inside your proposal, everything just makes sense.
PROCUREMENT: HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE QUALITY OF 3D DATA BEFORE INVESTING?
Acquiring a new location dataset is an important undertaking, and requires the same due diligence accorded to other parts of a large capital project. Here are some important questions to consider.
How much area does the data cover?
- It’s vital to understand not just the scope of the project but the impact on everything around it: data that covers the entire project corridor, as well as the surrounding areas.
- Wide-scale coverage allows you to reimagine city planning entirely versus just enhancing existing networks, like widening a road.
- With a wide-scale capture of reality, urban planners can test numerous city designs without leaving the office.
Is it accurate?
- Data that’s refreshed regularly ensures you’re looking at the credible reality on the ground.
- Consistency of resolution across captures means you can make reliable measurements, cost estimates, radio signal propagation models, etc.
- By using 3D as a continuous piece of content that you update regularly, you aggregate knowledge as you go through the project lifecycle, and 3D becomes a critical piece of content for post-project delivery and operation time.
Does it help unify your other data sources?
- A common data environment is a very powerful tool. 3D serves as the anchor for multiple geospatial and other datasets, and ultimately allows people to make earlier decisions about things they might not be able to see from a traditional 2D mapping interface.
- Different sets of location content united in a 3D environment immediately provides context and understanding of the physical world, connecting virtual to physical reality.
Is it readily available and easy to integrate with existing GIS workflows?
- Waiting months for new data doesn’t make sense; this delays the project rather than speeding the planning stages.
- The more easily you can fit location data into existing project workflows with Esri, Bentley, Cesium, Autodesk, Urban Circus, etc., the faster you can gain insights and start sharing your plan with the entire organisation.
Choosing the right tools to future-proof your major project and its impact on the urban environment is an important part of the digital infrastructure process. Learn more about Nearmap 3D, and view more 3D fly-throughs on our YouTube channel. You can also see a sample of our 3D mesh in ArcGIS Online.