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Change leader: city plans undergo stress-testing for sustainability

Donna Huey | 03 Jun 2016 | Comments

Donna Huey recently sat down with Informed Infrastructure to discuss stress-testing for sustainability. The following article was originally published by Informed Infrastructure on May 31, 2016.

Informed Infrastructure (II): Have you done more to formalize the Atkins approach to how you assist cities in coping with change?

Huey: We have. Most of our efforts have now been pulled into an updated value proposition for our customers that we call “stress testing,” where we’re looking at how to apply the process of evaluating different master-planning scenarios to validate the least-risk/highest-reward environment.

Cities have different goals. Some might be trying to just have economic stability, and some might be trying to address environmental issues. Whatever the goals or objectives are, the stress-testing process and some of the tools we’ve developed to support that are really the next generation of master planning. It’s come about in the last six to eight months.

II: Does it involve a bit of a scorecard or report card on how well cities are doing now?

Huey: We typically start the process with a report card, because many cities still need that high-level assessment of where they stand today. We start with a look at key issues and giving them a good baseline. Then that report card forms the basis for collecting feedback from stakeholders on potential solutions. You have all the challenges, and you also have opportunities. When you put those together, then we can look for what the right solutions are. Solutions form a plan, and you can have a number of variations of that plan. Each one of those variations could potentially produce different results.

So we start with a report card, and then we go into the assessment and end up in a handful of scenarios that we use in a workshop process and stress test.

II: Resilience is a buzzword now. In my observations, the coastal cities seem to be more motivated given threats from sea-level rise. What are you seeing in terms of drivers for this next-generation master planning, and are there any stand-out motivators for cities?

Huey: There’s a lot of new interest embodied in the term resilience in respect to cyber. We are seeing that swiftly emerging as a pillar under the resilience heading. You have environmental, socioeconomic and climate-change issues. With cyber resilience, you’re not just protecting your natural environment and infrastructure, but you’re also protecting from cyber attacks as well.

II: That ties into our more-connected infrastructure. I know there have been some attacks on dams and other critical infrastructure.

Huey: It’s pretty scary. It’s great that the infrastructure can talk to each other and talk to us, and we can even answer each other. The move toward self-healing materials and networks is coming along. But it’s all pretty vulnerable to attack. I think the amount we don’t know with respect to our vulnerabilities is what’s scariest for owners and operators.

II: What types of tools are you employing? The last time we spoke, we touched on BIM and its evolution to become an asset-management tool. Does much of your work involve the integration of BIM and other data feeds like GIS to provide a better understanding?

Huey: This is still a struggle for many of our clients. There are a lot of good products out there, so when we engage with our clients, the software product mixture differs. Usually the benefits and outcomes these systems are driving toward are similar. Our focus and methodology puts the data at the logical center and builds around those data.

We’re doing some projects that we call Scan to BIM and BIM to AIM. Scan to BIM really helps our clients capture as-built asset information with advanced laser-scanning technologies and drones. That feeds straight into a BIM model that can be attributed with asset information.

There’s some good work that we’ve done recently with Heathrow Airport in a tunnel system. This Scan to BIM project helped them tag assets with attribute information for operations and maintenance.

We did another interesting Scan to BIM project for slightly different outcomes in Miami with a large private developer. They were putting a building in adjacent to a Metro station and had to capture all the intricacies of designing around that. The scanning was able to go straight into a BIM model, which then directly informed the design. It significantly impacted not only the speed of the analysis, but it also allowed them to discover conflicts very early in the process to save time and money.

On the BIM to AIM side, that market is still maturing, and one of the things that we’ve recognized is a lack of demonstrable examples that exist in our infrastructure industry that are proving the results. We’ve started launching some of our own internal proof-of-concept projects.

For example, one of our office locations in need of a new floor fit out. We’re taking it upon ourselves to do the entire BIM design with a progression to an Asset Information Model that can be turned over to the operator for optimizing the energy efficiency and maintenance on the building.

There is a lot going in the integration space as we can better realize this data continuum across the whole of the project life cycle. It’s always been a passion of mine to see this data continuum persist and drive value.

Read the full interview on Informed Infrastructure