At the Middle East Geospatial Forum in Dubai, Richard Humphrey, Senior Director at Autodesk, gave a vision of the future entitled The Future of Geo-enabled Design that captures at a high level where the convergence of geospatial and engineering design is headed.
Over the next two decades the total investment in infrastructure is estimated to be somewhere in the range of $20 to 50 trillion. A lot of this money is going to have to come from the private sector because governments are increasingly spending their money on services and less on capital projects. To attract private investment will require governments to provide for decent financial returns and reduced risk. A major challenge face by many developed economies including the U.S., Japan, the E.U. and Korea that productivity in the construction industry has been static or declining for the past few decades. As a recent McKinsey report has pointed out there are a number of areas where productivity can be improved in the construction industry, but it will require investment in technology.
Infrastructure projects are big and getting bigger. 60% of these projects fail. The either exceed their budget or their schedule or both. Some of the reasons for this is information silos (CAD, GIS, BIM, etc), huge volumes of data (tens of thousands of design drawings, terabytes of point clouds and imagery, billions of tweets, etc), and the difficulty of coordinating large virtual teams. Also increasingly stakeholders who are not architects, engineers or GIS analysts need to be involved in the design process, whether it is a new transmission line, substation, bridge, or subway, municipal government, the public, environmental review agencies, regulators, and others impacted by the project are involved in the design process because they need to influence how it is going to impact them and their constituency.
Rich Humphrey described what he calls design in context which is enabled by the convergence of and breaking down of barriers between geospatial and engineering design and relies on big data, 3D visualization and web technologies.
Fundamentally it means using BIM or BIM for infrastructure to design a new structure in situ, using a city model to represent the rest of the city. The data generated in large infrastructure projects together with the city model can become huge so this requires big data technology. For example, Rich mentioned a Chicago model that is comprised of 800,000 buildings. The concept also makes possible analytics (for example, energy and water performance analysis, line of sight analysis for traffic signs) that require information about prevailing weather patterns and neighbouring structures (for example, right to light in the UK). And it also aims at automating design optimization based on defined design goals. It is web-based to allow access for large extended virtual teams. It uses 3D visualization technology and simplified ways of interacting with the design to enable all the stakeholders, including non-technical folks, to actively participate in the design process.
The goals are improved productivity, optimized designs, and greater predictability for large infrastructure projects, all of which are required if we are going to attract the tens of trillions of private investment dollars that it is estimated we need to invest in our infrastructure.