By Adrian Malone, Head of Digital Project Delivery and BIM, WSP in the UK

In our last post, we saw how design automation and the digital twin facilitated rich engagement between the designer and the client during the early stage of the design process resulting in better outcomes.  

Now, to fully understand the buildability and customer impact of the proposed works – both during the various stages of construction and throughout operation – the design team needs to engage with key stakeholders, including the customers who use the roads. 

More collaborative
What if you could engage with stakeholders earlier using your digital designs, working and thinking together to explore different possibilities through visualisation? This would help everyone to understand the design, especially by being able to visualise challenging aspects where it’s hard to see why a particular design decision has been made. This, in turn, provides the opportunity for earlier feedback and the ability to optimise and fix design decisions, which reduce the likelihood of costly and complex late changes.

Different design scenarios can be created and adjusted in almost real-time, allowing the engineering team to think creatively about a range of solutions and their potential fit with the success criteria and constraints defined at the outset. Options can then be shared easily with different stakeholders to get their input.

Thanks to the digital twin:
• The delivery partner (contractor) can provide timely input on the practicalities of constructing the scheme – either face-to-face or virtually
• Customer inputs can be generated by interacting with a virtual model linked with network operational intelligence derived from real traffic data, to help reduce the construction period and long-term customer impacts.
• Health and Safety impacts of design and construction scenarios can be assessed through risk algorithms and rehearsing the construction activities in a virtual environment
• Specialists and installers can provide input into the detailed specification of components
• Digital rehearsals using predictive traffic for each construction phase can be used to optimise just in time site deliveries and site assembly plans
• Highway maintenance teams can provide feedback on optimising the design to minimise maintenance and repair costs and to maximise safety during maintenance

With the standard elements of design delivered through automation, the delivery team can focus on problem solving and optimisation. Real-time collaboration with subject-matter experts across the alliance organisations is combined with instant feedback of key metrics – such as delivery time, installation and operational cost, and impact on customers during the project. This enables the engineering team to rapidly construct a series of scenarios using realistic 3D models and simulations – saving time, money and reducing the risks to site workers and customers. 

Public Consultation
Public consultation is a key phase in any major scheme. Providing stakeholders with accurate and clear information can be time consuming but is essential to an effective consultation process. Having all the information in one place makes it far more efficient to produce the various consultation materials. 

A network-wide digital twin would allow the proposed development to be presented in the context of the existing road and wider transport network. For example, members of the public could explore the impact or benefits that a proposed scheme would have on their personal commute, incorporating real traffic flow information. The user could adjust the view to explore time of day or season with the ability to view predicted traffic flows in various situations such as rush hour, or at night. 

The digital twin could be used to enhance both online and face-to-face consultation. At more traditional public consultation-style events, the consultation team would be equipped with more tools to help answer and provide demonstrations through interactive simulations. For example, if a member of the public is concerned about noise associated with the development, immersive audio would allow them to hear the anticipated noise levels from different positions on a map, or to hear the expected impact of proposed noise screening such as artificial acoustic barriers and natural vegetation.

The digital twin would allow people to explore not only the finished scheme but outline plans for temporary works and the associated disruption during all stages of construction and installation. This would allow individuals to virtually drive through the digital twin on a typical journey and to explore alternative routes, which would mitigate avoidable disruption and increase confidence in the scheme both during construction and operation. 

In another scenario, a national distribution centre for a major on-line retailer could assess the impact of permanent and temporary designs on their transport plans using tools provided by a combination of the digital twin with integrated predictive traffic and journey time information. This would demonstrate evidenced-based needs in consultation feedback and enable them to proactively plan their operations to take account of the various work phases in advance.

With the digital twin at the heart of consultation, the design team can more efficiently and effectively engage with industry and public stakeholders. As a bonus, it also provides a rich contextual record of feedback and proposals, their evaluation, and tracks how the scheme was modified through the consultation – demonstrating that the customer and stakeholders are valued and engaged throughout the consultation process.

About Adrian Malone:
Adrian is Head of Digital Project Delivery and BIM for Transport & Infrastructure at WSP in the UK. With more than 20 years of experience in the construction sector, Adrian has spent the majority of his career engaged with innovation and research in BIM and digital training including EU-funded research on industrialised  construction, BIM initiatives with professional institutions such as RICS and APM, and most recently, I3P. Adrian has a master’s degree in information systems, and combines his technical knowledge with a strong people and customer focus. He has experience in contacting and consulting organisations as well as both construction and facilities management. Adrian is a passionate advocate for innovation and digital transformation in the construction and engineering sector. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

Read the other articles in our series hereRead how WSP connects people for the future here