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Capturing Context for Early Infrastructure Planning – A COWI Case Study

Reality Capture Guru
August 3, 2017
Infrastructure rendering, Image courtesy of COWI AS

Infrastructure rendering, Image courtesy of COWI AS

The use of Reality Capture grows in infrastructure design and construction. For example, when renovating bridges, laser surveys give designers very accurate measurements around that bridge and support piers. When building a new road, construction firms use automated grading and paving equipment guided by GPS and laser control systems. Point clouds help assess quality and safety during airport runway reconstruction. Utilities use photogrammetry and laser scanning technology to efficiently document as-is conditions in underground electrical utility vaults. Laser, photogrammetry, and sonar technologies can assist in the documentation and monitoring of dams. The list goes on and on.

Reality capture also benefits early infrastructure planning and design efforts. Existing conditions (in the form of captured reality data) are brought into 3D modeling software to provide physical context. In the very early stages of infrastructure design, project teams often combine a variety of data capture formats. These formats include existing digital terrain models, aerial photography, and GIS data. Additionally, point clouds can be also useful for providing surrounding visual context.

COWI, a global engineering consulting group, used this integrated approach. The City of Oslo hired COWI Norway to conduct a feasibility study and provide preliminary costs for a new 2,300 square meter outdoor fitness park in Bogerud. Due to the project’s small scale and budget, COWI needed to simplify the design process and effectively communicate the project to city planners and neighborhood residents.

In just a few hours, COWI landscape architect and BIM strategist Marius Sekse used InfraWorks, Civil 3D, and ReCap to create a 3D model of the proposed park in the context of the surrounding environment.

  • ReCap quickly generate an accurate, geo-located 3D point cloud of the park area from laser scans of the city.
  • Civil 3D defined a detailed existing terrain surface.
  • InfraWorks combined the resulting point cloud, terrain model, and equipment objects with local GIS data and aerial imagery.

Lastly, Sekse finished the feasibility study by using the InfraWorks model to calculate earthworks and cost estimates for the park. The model helped produce a series of visualizations of the park for the client.

In just 26 hours, COWI provided the City of Oslo with preliminary cost estimates, site design, and presentation materials for its proposed fitness park. Further, Sekse estimates that COWI reduced their project consultancy costs by about 60 percent!

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