The Year in Infrastructure 2015 Conference was billed as a global gathering of leading executives in the world of infrastructure design, construction, and operations. Organised every year by Bentley Systems, a leading global provider of software for advancing infrastructure, the event attracts leading figures from the world of infrastructure design, construction, and operations. It features a series of presentations and interactive workshops exploring the intersection of technology and business drivers, and how they are shaping the future of infrastructure delivery and investment returns, spread over four days.

The 2015 conference took place recently in London, and it was a huge affair by UK standards, with over 110 media attendees, several hundred conference delegates and attendance at the awards dinner in the order of 600 people. Rail Engineer was there to find out what it was all about.

BIM, or CIM?

For a good while now, Bentley Systems has been providing software for the use of project teams including surveyors, engineers, architects, construction companies and more. The company offers a comprehensive range of products in the field of Building Information Management, or BIM. Given the commitment of the UK Government to mandate the use of Level 2 BIM for all projects with government funding in the next 12 months or so, Bentley Systems must be well placed to take advantage of these developments.

Confusingly, delegates were informed at the conference that, in the USA, everyone speaks of CIM rather than BIM- civils rather than buildings, that is. Despite this slight difference of approach, Bentley’s products are used for building works as well as civils ones, and there seem to be signs of convergence between the civils and buildings fields in the adoption of the philosophy of BIM/CIM.

An interesting aside in all this was the ‘Bentley Infrastructure 500 Top Owner’ list produced by the company. It gives some perspective to the UK’s place in the world to see that the top ranked infrastructure owner in this country is UK Highways, placed 7th in the world. BP is the UK’s next organisation on the list at 11th, Network Rail comes 29th and the MoD is immediately behind at 30th. The National Grid is only 58th in world ranking, and TfL just 86th.

The two big features of the conference were Bentley’s product update announcements, presented by CEO Greg Bentley and COO Malcolm Walter and their team, and the company’s ‘Be Inspired Awards 2015’. The awards finals were judged during the conference, with the announcement of the winners and prize presentations taking place at a dinner one evening.

Common CONNECTion

This year’s big product news, presented by Greg Bentley, was the introduction of a new generation of its software, the CONNECT Edition. This provides a common software environment for project delivery. Bentley’s ProjectWise, MicroStation and Navigator software packages are now all generally available to users. These are cloud-based services which now link together seamlessly.

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ProjectWise CONNECT Edition is a work sharing workhorse, which now enables complete collaboration across a project team enabling comprehensive project delivery.

MicroStation CONNECT Edition is an advancement of Bentley’s common modelling environment, giving unified support for design modelling, analytical modelling, construction modelling and modelling of reality.

Navigator CONNECT Edition allows the extension of the common connected experience from office based users out to users on site or in the field. Model-based visual reporting and issue resolution through ProjectWise are enabled by this application.

Comments from users such as Arup suggest that this new development by Bentley is expected to help them to extend their BIM capabilities by improving collaboration and communications across project teams, increasing productivity and reducing the room for errors.

Associated with the CONNECT Edition, which will be extended rapidly to include other products in the Bentley portfolio, is a cloud- based subscription program, giving access to Bentley products, services and apps. It also manages users’ subscriptions and accounts.

Other developments

Various other software systems have been improved and updated, for example AECOsim Building Designer has been updated to include conceptioneering and optioneering, bringing together analytical and modelling design for the conceptual stages of projects. Other packages with new features include OpenPlant and OpenRoads.

A very exciting new development announced was the launch of ConceptCapture, the first release by Bentley of the Acute3D software that the company acquired earlier this year. ConceptCapture enables the easy production of high-resolution 3D models of almost anything, using just photographs taken with almost any digital camera. Obviously, the accuracy and definition of the model is affected by the number and quality of the photographs, but the use of expensive survey cameras is not required. The results can be very realistic, clear and geometrically very accurate. The software is ideal for use with photographs taken by UAVs (drones) as well as terrestrial and aerial cameras. Models of almost any size are feasible, right up to city scale.

The conference was shown an impressive example of a 3D model produced by Acute3D by taking images from a UAV of an electricity substation on the EDF network in France. By supplementing the UAV images with some taken at closer range with hand held cameras, the model was able to show details such as legible details of the manufacturer’s plates on equipment housings.

In association with ContextCapture, Bentley has introduced ContextCapture Centre for ‘grid computing power’ to reduce processing time for large models, able to handle 30 gigapixels of imagery and more.

UK success

The Bentley ‘Be Inspired Awards 2015’ attracted over 300 entries from all over the globe. There were 18 categories including ‘Rail
& Transit’, the one likely to be of most interest to Rail Engineer readers. Congratulations go to London Underground, as the winning project in this category was its Bond Street to Baker Street tunnel remediation project – relining 215 metres of the tunnel whilst leaving the line open to traffic in normal operational hours (pictured below).

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To achieve this, work had to be carried out in the very short overnight engineering window of only two and a half hours each night. In this time, the project team had to replace the existing 1970s segmental concrete tunnel lining, which was considered unsafe because of the ground conditions around it, with a spheroidal graphite iron one. The project used Bentley software including AECOsim Building Designer, Bentley Descartes, Bentley Pointools, Bentley Navigator and ProjectWise to create geospatially accurate, fully coordinated 3D and 4D models, enabling LU to realise an estimated saving of 15% on the project cost whilst completing it safely on time.

A second UK project was one of the other two finalists in the same category, this being a project for Network Rail. Track Access Services was tasked with undertaking a laser positional video survey for Crossrail West, which meant surveying the intensively trafficked railway west of London for Network Rail’s infrastructure improvement project between Paddington and Reading. A geo-tagged 3D point cloud was collected using a train-mounted Topcon IPS2 scanning rig together with a synchronised HD video. The data will be used to support the project’s design stages. Bentley’s ProjectWise and MicroStation were crucial to this £40,000 project which, it is estimated, saved 75% of the cost of producing the information by other means, and also completely avoided the need for anyone to go on track.

In the category Innovation in Asset Performance, the Network Rail LADS Programme was a finalist. The entry was unfortunate to be up against a great winning project from South Australia, involving the management of a water supply network by innovative means. Commiserations to Network Rail for missing out this time, as its project might well have won had it not encountered such great competition.

There was another British winner, however, this time in the category Innovation in Power Generation. MWH Global won this category with its entry – Tyseley Resource Recovery Centre. It might not be a rail project, but we rail people do know where Tyseley is!

Challenging times

Altogether the conference was a great few days, with an incredible amount of information being thrown at delegates. This report is only able to give a very brief sketch of the whole week.

Talking exclusively with Greg Bentley, it is clear that he sees the UK as being ahead of the rest of the world in many aspects of the application of BIM. Crossrail is using BIM, amongst many other reasons, to enhance the supply chain and to encourage innovation. He added: “The UK rail requirements stress test what we create.”

Clearly, Greg sees the UK as challenging him and his company but, from what was displayed at this conference, Bentley as a company is challenging the rail industry to find new and innovative uses for its software and BIM in general.