BIM Today talks with Gregor Strekelj, Product Manager Infrastructure at ALLPLAN, who explains the challenges of today’s bridge construction and how BIM helps to overcome them
What are the biggest challenges in bridge construction?
Bridges are complex structures: in the geometric sense, but especially in their structural behaviour during service and in the use of different construction technologies, which must correspond to both the bridge type and the terrain conditions. Many variants are worked out until the final status of the bridge project is finalised. Comparing variants to determine the best balance between quality and budget is correspondingly time-consuming and labour-intensive. This process can sometimes be avoided or not given sufficient priority due to time pressures in the design phase. This can have a negative impact on the basic quality of the bridge.
Nevertheless, modifications, as well as time-consuming synchronisations, are part of the daily business in bridge design. A lack of a single source of truth for the project, misunderstandings and possible inconsistencies are a major problem in the bridge construction industry, especially due to the globalisation of projects.
Do you see any other problem areas?
Time and cost. Research by economic analysts has found that nine out of 10 infrastructure projects are not completed within the estimated time and cost. In bridge construction, cost overruns are around 30%.
Here, too, the reasons lie primarily in the complexity of bridges but also in the work processes, which are naturally also prone to errors, thus closing the circle to quality. If you don’t invest enough time, more errors occur. If errors have to be corrected again and again during the planning phase, this also costs time and money. Even more costly and time-consuming are errors that are only discovered on the construction site. All this becomes even more problematic because schedules are becoming increasingly tight.
Is Building Information Modelling a solution to these problems?
BIM is definitely the right solution for these problems, yes. But not just any BIM. In structural engineering, it has now proven practical for various reasons to use several specialist models instead of a common model, which are later merged and checked for collisions.
In bridge construction, however, the situation is different. In our view, the enormous complexity here clearly requires a “single source of truth”. This means that we ideally need a single parametric 4D model that bidirectionally combines geometry, structural analysis and design. This is exactly what we have achieved in a groundbreaking way with Allplan Bridge.
Ultimately, it is crucial that BIM not only exists in theory but is also lived. This begins with planning and ends on the construction site. Step-by-step digitisation of the construction site increases the consistency of digital process chains and enables the full potential of digital planning to be exploited.
What prompted you to develop software specifically for modelling bridges?
Based on our experience and exchange with our customers, we at Allplan decided some time ago, as part of our infrastructure strategy, that we needed a completely new solution for parametric modelling, structural analysis, design and construction of bridges in 4D that is open BIM-capable and at the same time fully integrates the 3D detailing capabilities of Allplan.
What exactly is the “groundbreaking” feature of Allplan Bridge?
Allplan Bridge is a comprehensive solution for modelling bridges. We have achieved a technological breakthrough in particular with the automatic derivation of the static model from the geometry. This function is so far unique in the world and is indeed a groundbreaking improvement that immensely speeds up the entire planning process and makes it more error-free.
What can we expect from Allplan Bridge in the future?
That depends to a large extent on our customers. Up to this point, we have carefully collected customer requirements in accordance with our roadmap. In the next versions, the proportion of customer-centric development will increase. Ease of use, efficiency and innovation drive us. Currently, we are planning extensions for modelling and structural analysis, among others.
International standards are an important part of our solution, as bridge construction projects are carried out worldwide and our solution is currently already used in 30 countries. We also always follow the latest IFC requirements for bridges. In any case, we never run out of ideas.
One last question: How does it feel to have developed something groundbreaking?
We are a passionate team of many different experts, structural engineers, mathematicians, physicists and experienced software developers active for many years in the bridge sector who have invested and are investing a lot of time and effort in our product.
From the beginning, we knew what we wanted, worked tirelessly towards it and are getting closer to the goal. We are all proud to have developed something that was still missing from bridge construction and is also needed by authorities worldwide. If you want maximum efficiency and to take full advantage of the BIM methodology in bridge construction, you can’t get around Allplan Bridge as a solution.
Please note: this is a commercial profile.