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Bentley Systems’ Eduardo Lazzarotto on how construction sites are being elevated by automation, software solutions, and digital twin technology


Construction Business News ME caught up with Bentley Systems’ Eduardo Lazzarotto, Director, Product Management – Facilities Engineering, on how automation, technology, and software solutions are changing how construction sites operate in the aftermath of COVID-19

1. How automation is reshaping the construction industry?

“The construction industry, following in the footsteps of finance and manufacturing, has been going digital for the past couple of years. The pandemic and social distancing requirements are accelerating that trend, and many users around the world are migrating to digital workflows and remote project collaboration. Going digital is a process and involves software, workflows, and processes. It is also scalable, and users can benefit greatly from going digital in specific contexts, like simulating the change of ticket machines in a station during the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements. Later the data can connect to a larger digital twin of the asset.

Bentley’s solutions to create and curate digital twins are branded iTwin Services. Digital twins are a primary component of a digital workflow. They are virtual representations of assets that can be used to simulate and enhance performance throughout their lifecycle. Digital twins are created by digital context, such as reality meshes composed by photogrammetry and point cloud data using applications like ContextCapture.

They are supported by components that are widely adopted in Bentley’s open design integration software, including OpenBuildings, OpenRail, and OpenRoads. SYNCHRO, Bentley’s new digital construction portfolio, brings virtual construction and 4D model-based workflows that create an operation-focused construction digital twin. Other important components are collaboration platforms such as ProjectWise 365 that allow users to have the right access to the right data at the right time.”

2. What are the significant changes or benefits seen at construction sites that use innovative technologies?

“Going digital enables users to maximize the performance of their assets throughout their lifecycles. Applications like ContextCapture provide safer and more efficient surveying, site management, and asset operations through digital context. ContextCapture generates reality meshes using point cloud and photogrammetry data. Moving along the project lifecycle, SYNCHRO supports the full 4D planning and project management, visualization and implementation of construction schedules, reducing time and cost to operators.

We have also seen a considerable increase in demand for our collaboration software since the beginning of the year. Our “Bentley Has Your Back” campaigns include no-fee access to OpenBuildings Station Designer and LEGION Simulator through November 30th, as well as ProjectWise 365 for collaboration among multidiscipline team members through September 30th. There is great interest in accelerating the digitalization of workflows, working remotely, and focusing on resilience as a fundamental requirement of ongoing and future projects.

Bentley’s open design tools and open source platform iModel.js have also seen an increase in demand, as owner-operators and consultants around the world accelerate their development of services associated with design, build, and operation of infrastructure.”

3. How does new technology help combat any issues related to COVID-19?

“Owner-operators of infrastructure assets around the world are using simulation to test cost-effective operational levels while adhering to social distancing guidelines designed to limit contact and potential infection. LEGION is a leading pedestrian simulation application that is part of Bentley’s portfolio of applications for the design, construction, and operations of buildings and infrastructure. Some of the world’s leading transit organizations have used LEGION to improve pedestrian safety and operational efficiency in train stations, as well as airports and stadiums.

What LEGION does is simulate how people behave and move in spaces. The model for the simulation of people movement in OpenBuildings Station Designer includes defining the building geometry within which the people will be moving, as well as objects such as ticket machines and gate lines. In addition, it also includes elements such as signage and barricades, which will impact passengers’ movement.

The building geometry can be imported into LEGION from CAD/BIM files of the model. All the leading formats are supported including DGN, DWG, DXF, IFC, and RVT. In time, LEGION will be integrated with Bentley’s multidiscipline BIM application, OpenBuildings Designer, which will automatically bring the BIM model of the design to be simulated into LEGION. OpenBuildings Designer is typically used for designing large projects such as train stations, airports, and stadiums, for which it includes dedicated libraries of components common to these building types.

Once LEGION models are developed, users can test multiple “what-if” scenarios by altering demand or operational measures, such as staff communications, signage or one-directional flows, or changing the infrastructure with new entrances, separation barriers and security checks. Users such as AREP (SNCF subsidiary), London Underground, and Santiago Metro can also test future assumptions, changing the number of trains, service disruptions, and demand, guaranteeing that every station, or other types of public spaces, are ready for a wide range of scenarios, including response strategies and guaranteeing faster recovery times.”

4. How does automating or the usage of more robots at sites help increase the health and safety aspects for workers?

“Digital twins help engineers and designers plan, design, build, and operate infrastructure more efficiently. Bentley software helps users accelerate project delivery and guarantee the most out of each asset, including for remote or streamlined on-site inspections, efficient project collaboration, workers movements, and construction simulations and visualization technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality. The technology improves the safety of workers and reduces carbon footprints, resulting in cost-efficient projects.”

5. Should contractors, consultants, and others who work on projects focus on redeveloping their workforce (laborers included) to be more tech focused? 

“Going digital is a process and involves workflows, tools, and, most important of all, people. Innovation is driven by diversity, so, bringing specialists from different disciplines, people from diverse backgrounds, with different knowledge, working together in projects will become the new normal. Bentley strongly believes in openness. Not only of our design tools that enable multiple industry file formats and efficient collaboration among players, but also sharing the right data, at the right time for the right people. Three key elements of planning cities and buildings of the future are remote collaboration, resiliency, and places.

The first one is a direct reaction to other accelerating trends of the past couple of decades, namely the improvement in communication networks, computational capacity, and globalization. All of these are enabling stakeholders in different locations to efficiently collaborate in all sorts of projects. The second one derives from other accelerating trends, urbanization, and global warming. As our cities grow faster than ever, and our impact in the natural world becomes more apparent, resiliency to all sorts of disruptions, man-made or natural, becomes an imperative. Lastly, human beings are naturally social beings, and one of the needs that COVID, quarantining, and social distancing have highlighted is for places. These are spaces in buildings and cities that allow for safe interaction and convivial in parallel to the services being offered.”

6. COVID-19 has brought about a new form of disruption and forced all industries and sectors to think outside the box. Why is it important to embrace this disruption and should we be cautious about the next steps we take?

“It is difficult to predict how long social-distancing requirements and other COVID-19-related changes will remain in place. But some trends have been accelerating over the past couple of years, including urbanization, growing public transport demand and technological disruption. Within these challenges also grow the demand for efficient, resilient, and cost-effective infrastructure. So, the most important prediction is that in the future, starting now, cities must go digital to enable exponential growth of simulation-led enhancements and operations improvements. We cannot forecast which exact changes will happen, but simulation-powered digital twins can help us be more resilient, from readiness, through response and into recovery from disruptions.”

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