As we enter a new year, Seequent Civil and Environmental Product Manager, Pat McLarin, shares his predictions for the year to come.

Bridge at night

We have heard a lot in the past few years about the need for civil infrastructure projects to Go Digital. We are at a point where – in 2019 – digital transformation will be considered a prerequisite to participate in most major infrastructure projects. Those who have embraced this shift will go from strength to strength, while those lagging behind will find it increasingly difficult to be effective.

So, what does this mean for ground engineering and geotechnical disciplines in the industry?

Move to 3D
As engineering designs move to 3D so too will the requirement for ground risk assessment and interpretation. This will also become a true for baseline geotechnical documentation. Where today we rely on written statements and 2D cross sections as the founding documents for contractual definition of ground risk and common understanding, going forward 3D interpretations will be relied upon as projects pass from phase to phase. This drive towards greater efficiencies is increasingly required by end clients. While parts of the problem will still be relevant to solve in 2D, overall project deliverables will be in 3D, with the 2D analysis integrated as metadata. 3D greatly aids the ability to communicate with technical and non-technical stakeholders, while interactions with other 3D realisations are easy and effective. We have seen first-hand the power of 3D in supporting key infrastructure projects already, such as City Rail Link, and West Gate Tunnel.

Integration across the workflow
From ground investigations to asset delivery modelling – analysis and design feedback loops will become more tightly coupled and integrated. In parallel, they are documented in the project environment and remain live for longer across the project. As teams expand by in number and are geographically spread, digital twins that are highly connected are needed to enable these kinds of tight integrations.

Doing more with less
There has never been more reason to drive efficiency in infrastructure projects. Pressure on cities for transportation, housing, energy and waste management infrastructure, agriculture production, groundwater resources, greenhouse gas reduction targets (and more) – means shorter time lines for projects will be demanded, which means less work thrown away as we move from phase to phase, and more collaboration needed including the sharing of risk. We cover this topic in our latest Unearthed Report – including how to build sustainable cities in the future.

Development of a common language
To communicate understanding (or lack of understanding) of the subsurface, we need to develop a common language to convey uncertainty to engineering disciplines. It’s hard to design to ground conditions that you aren’t confident about, but much worse to be over confident and prefabricate something that is not fit for purpose following excavation. Companies are creating their own internal language to communicate geological uncertainty – but with joint ventures a common language that can be inherently understood across organisational and disciplinary boundaries will become key.

Breakdown of siloed data
Unfortunately, that feeling that you never have enough subsurface data is probably not going to change in 2019 – geoscientists will always want more data to validate their interpretations. But we should see better utilisation and sharing both of investigation data and 3D models in 2019. Industry developments in 2018 like Keynetix cloud based ground investigation database and Bentleys open source iModel.js initiative are indicative of the industry response to user needs to share and get more leverage from their valuable data. To enable direct participation of ground engineering teams in BIM projects we released IFC support for geological models in 2018 and are continuing to work as a member of BuildingSmart on IFC standard development for the subsurface with geotechnics and earthworks definitions, which will be ratified throughout 2019 and come into effect in 2020.

Transparency and public consultation
The public increasingly hold governments and authorities to a high standard and level of scrutiny on public projects. Given its tendency to be misunderstood even within the industry, ground engineering and groundwater management will need to develop better mechanisms for communicating to the layperson what their disciplines involve, and why solutions are the way they are. Visualisation and storytelling tools, as well as transparency throughout the projects will be required more and more. Tools such as View will be increasingly important in communicating large scale infrastructure with public audiences.

Pat’s predictions speak to just a handful of challenges facing our industry in the coming year – but they also represent a myriad of opportunities.

Want to know how Seequent can help you tackle the biggest challenges facing our industry in 2019? Contact us today.

Pat McLarin
Pat McLarin – Product Manager, Civil and Environmental, Seequent

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