A highlight of the Year in Infrastructure conference in London are the Be Inspired Awards. The annual Be Inspired Awards competition brings together infrastructure professionals and members of the media to share innovative practices in infrastructure project design, engineering, construction, and operations and to celebrate the extraordinary work of the world’s architects, engineers, contractors and owner-operators. Infrastructure projects submitted for the awards range across 18 categories. One of them is Innovation in Utilities and Communications. This year's finalists provide examples of where the leading utilities in the world are investing in new technology to help them fundamentally transform the world's electric power system.
3D model of underground utility infrastructure
The location of existing underground utility infrastructure is more often than not poorly known which creates significant risk for infrastructure and highway construction projects. In this project Utility Mapping Services (UMS) created a 3D model of the existing underground and above ground infrastructure to reduce the risk associated with constructing an eight inch natural gas pipeline along a major highway.
To increase reliability for customers Puget Sound Energy planned the installation of an eight-inch, high-pressure natural gas main along one mile of SR 510 in Lacey, Washington. A major risk was that the project corridor includes complex utility infrastructure woven through dense commercial and residential areas with limited right-of-way and heavy traffic congestion. Creating a 3D model of the existing underground infrastructure enabled the design team to adjust the pipe elevation and horizontal alignment to avoid potential utility conflicts during design before a shovel touched the ground. The 3d model of existing utility infrastructure dramatically reduced the costs associated with unnecessary utility relocations, avoidable construction delays, and contractor change orders. It also allowed for tighter contractor bid estimates by providing a more accurate design. UMS's subsurface utility engineering (SUE) services group had been using new remote sensing technology such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) which allowed them to acquire 3-D data on existing underground utility infrastructure. The new SUE application created much greater value for the customer because UMS can now clearly convey to the client the issues presented by existing infrastructure and work with their design and construction teams and the utility infrastructure owners to minimize utility relocations and avoid surprises from buried unknowns.
Inshaat Utilities Management System
Inshaat is a system developed by the Municipality of Dubai to manage utility construction projects by automating drawing validation. It is intended to enable external consultants to submit drawings, engineering and other files via the Web. The system automatically checks submitted drawings against the utility's CAD standards and utility network engineering rules, and then converts and integrates the drawings with the master municipal network. Members of the design and engineering teams, management and other stakeholders can access drainage, sewerage, and irrigation network information via the Web. Making the entire project process digital not only reduced the municipal department staff’s project drawing validation time by 95 percent but also reduced paper usage in utility construction projects by 90 percent.
Engineering Contractor Collaboration Solution
Smart substations are the key to the next generation of the electric power grid. But for many utilities they are a bottleneck because of limited substation design resources. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) embarked on an innovative project to streamline the substation design process. PG&Es Substation Engineering Services deployed a new substation design system to approximately 80 internal design employees with efficiency gains of about $ 5 million in savings per year on contracted projects. PG&E hoped to realize similar benefits by extending it to external contractors. Enabling contractors located throughout the country to work in PG&E’s substation design environment not only enabled more effective, efficient, and secure collaboration with external contractors, but allowed PG&E to expand its substation design capacity by bringing in external contractors.