Digital in Depth
The new digital technologies and applications make it possible to collect data and information about the terrain and the existing infrastructure and to convert it into 3D BIM models. The diversity of these data ranges from the geological nature of the soil to the movements of construction machinery on the construction site. These visualisations help the different project participants to obtain the most realistic and always up-to-date picture of the actual state of the project, but also of simulated conditions in the future. Another trend has emerged from the advances in sensor technology that will allow construction machines to collect and gather data in the future.
Four of these promising research approaches are presented here:
1 – From the office to the point clouds
To date, 3D models have been based on physical on-site measurements or drone-generated images. With the aid of photogrammetry (image measurement), the BIM experts from ZÜBLIN Ground Engineering for the first time created 3D visualisations of so-called point clouds from 360° views of mapping services. The corresponding 2D screenshots were converted into a condensed 3D model using the Pix4D software. The point cloud was converted into a 3D mesh and then imported into a 4D simulation software such as Synchro-PRO. This approach showed a high degree of reliability and precision. For projects in which drone filming accuracy is not yet needed or where drones are not allowed, for example at airports, this approach offers a promising alternative. Read the full article here.
2 – Successful clash management through visualisation
4D flow simulations reveal unforeseen conflicts between current activities, drilling or safety issues at specific stages of construction. Each machine can also be assigned a unique path to simulate the likely movements on the site.
In an experiment it was then tested to predict possible accidents of construction machines in their working areas already in the tender phase of a construction project by means of a 4D simulation. 3D models of construction equipment such as containers, silos, drilling rigs, crawler cranes or excavators were imported and – correctly scaled – brought into their respective position in the simulation.
In an automatically generated PDF report, the planning team used these informative visualisations to report conceivable collisions in advance. These dynamic construction site models, along with visualisations of the activities there, increase efficiency and occupational safety because risk factors are identified early on. Read the full article here.
3 – Automatically created 3D models from data sources
3D models can also be created automatically. Autodesk Dynamo scripts are used to detect parameters associated with different Autodesk Revit families and arranged in a predefined order in a spreadsheet. The script selects the relevant Revit family and draws the corresponding examples in the Revit environment at the specified location and with the resultant attributes.
As a next step, ZÜBLIN Ground Engineering wants to develop more general solutions that are less dependent on Revit, using software that interacts with Revit via a ZÜBLIN-programmed application programming interface (API) instead of the Dynamo script. This would allow design parameters to be stored directly in a well-structured database for different stakeholders. A unified system that combines geometric data and production information can significantly improve the management and control of construction activities in the future. Read the full article here.
4 – Evaluation of construction phases from drilling data
Sensors installed on borehole drilling rigs can measure data such as drilling depth, installation times, feed force, drilling pressure and speed. However, a precise evaluation is often extremely time-consuming. In a study of the Kombilösung infrastructure project (KASIG) in Karlsruhe, ZÜBLIN Ground Engineering investigated how this drilling data can be processed faster and more easily. At the construction site for a 1,850 m long car tunnel, several pile boreholes are being drilled to depths of up to 23 m. The automatic detection of drilling phases and shutdowns made it easier for the engineers to more accurately determine the actual net and gross performance of the drill. In addition, correlations were shown between initial geotechnical data and the specific energy needed to drill one cubic metre of soil.
In addition, correlations between the data of the initial geotechnical investigations and the specific energy required to drill a cubic meter of soil were shown. In the meantime, drilling data is also linked to various data collected manually to account for downtime or unexpectedly slow drilling progress, for example. Read the full article here.
Little time and little space
Why new digital solutions are so important in ground engineering.
In modern ground engineering, proven experts operate today with extremely powerful machines, highly complex methods and special equipment. This results in fascinating construction possibilities – but also major challenges: machines and people often work in highly confined areas on the construction site; furthermore time schedules are often very tight for the construction works. In many cases, the activities overlap with those of other construction sites, not infrequently even with neighbouring projects being worked by competitors or with public transport infrastructure.
Under these conditions, planning and construction site design play a decisive role, for example in order to calculate the costs as realistically as possible, to organise the procedures efficiently, and, above all, to ensure the occupational safety for all involved. The complexity of this challenge is often not fully clear at the time of negotiations with the client or during project planning. Unexpected events are a reality on a construction site, affecting costs, scheduling and safety. The need for as realistic a planning as possible, but also for an effective real-time monitoring during the work, is correspondingly large.
Photogrammetry – stands for a group of measurement and evaluation methods of remote sensing for determining an object’s spatial position or three-dimensional shape from photographs or exact measurement images. Most pictures are taken with special measuring cameras.
Point cloud – a set of measurement points generated by a 3D scanner or reconstructed from a large number of photographs using photogrammetry analysis. These tiny data points together form a 3D mass similar to water droplets in a natural cloud. A scanner first captures a large number of data points reflected from edges and surfaces such as walls, windows, pipes or steel structures. Using the x, y and z coordinates of the data points, an accurate 3D representation of the scanned area is created: the point cloud. To make the point cloud visible in the BIM process, the scans are imported into a modelling software.
Mesh – a polygon mesh, generated from a set of vertices, edges and faces, that defines the shape of a polyhedral object in 3D computer graphics and solid modelling. The surfaces usually consist of triangles (triangular mesh), squares or other simple convex polygons.
The study authors
Mirna Mamar Bachi
graduated with a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering and earned another Master’s degree in Structural Engineering. She gained professional experience as a Planner and Project Coordinator in various countries and in various fields, such as infrastructure, building construction and geotechnical engineering. At Züblin Spezialtiefbau GmbH, she is responsible for the development and implementation of BIM solutions. Her main focus is on the application of BIM methods in the bid or execution phase for ground engineering projects.
holds a degree in Civil Engineering with a focus on Geotechnical Engineering. Since completing his doctorate, he has been researching topics in applied geotechnical engineering, in particular soil improvement and ground engineering techniques. In his professional career, he has already implemented data management solutions in international projects and worked with various central data systems. He is currently Head of the Digitalisation and Process Management team at Züblin Spezialtiefbau GmbH where he is responsible for the strategy and coordination of projects in the area of location data management, BIM, digital solutions and process management/LEAN.
Züblin Spezialtiefbau GmbH
The 100 % subsidiary of Ed. Züblin AG belongs to the corporate group of STRABAG SE. The company currently employs around 1,300 people and realises geotechnically challenging projects throughout Europe. The portfolio includes complex infrastructure projects, foundation work, turnkey construction pits and immersed tunnels. The ZÜBLIN ground engineering subsidiary also offers a large number of other services, including special technologies such as ground freezing, dam repairs and controlled drilling. Applications can be found in construction, planning, logistics and project management.