Reality capture post-tsunami rebuilding

Civil & Surveying


The March 11, 2011, earthquake off the coast of Japan generated a tsunami that caused catastrophic destruction in northeast Japan. Since the disaster, the government has launched projects to rebuild and re-establish communities in areas that were swept away by the tsunami. One of these projects is the reconstruction of the town of Yamada in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture.

Obayashi construction firm is providing integrated management of initial studies, surveying, design, and construction. Obayashi is using information and communication technology (ICT), including model-based collaborative Autodesk® software, to promote better understanding of the project content and rapid consensus building between the government and local residents. The firm is using Autodesk® AutoCAD® Civil 3D®, Autodesk® InfraWorks® 360, Autodesk® ReCap 360TM, Autodesk® Navisworks®, and Autodesk® Buzzsaw® software.

Model-based workflows enabled the team to create a more accurate design. Then they used the intelligent models to generate 3D project visualizations for improved project communication with the government and local residents. And the firm is currently using the models for construction planning, computer-aided construction, and earthwork progress control.

View overview video.


Image courtesy of Obayashi

On an earthquake reconstruction project such as this, Obayashi must help local residents to understand the overall scope of the project and the construction effort needed to rebuild their community. To that end, Obayashi used Civil 3D and InfraWorks 360 to develop and visualize the design of the new town in the context of the surrounding terrain, shorelines, and existing structures not destroyed by the tsunami.

This 3D model is used to create images and videos for public outreach efforts, and used on-the-fly during community meetings to help Yamada’s residents understand the proposed design and construction of their rebuilt town.

Initial project earthworks have begun and the 3D project model is now being used to generate construction visualizations for residents as well as field construction teams and their subcontractors. Although construction is still in progress, to date construction costs have been reduced 15 percent and the project schedule reduced by 30 percent compared to initial estimates, which Obayashi credits to the use of model-based visualizations for efficient decision making and improved project understanding.

View more construction videos: Nishikawa construction  and underground structures.

Obayashi is also using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) mounted with cameras to capture earthworks data, and ReCap 360 software to convert that captured data into a surface model. This data is then combined with the 3D as-designed site model to quickly measure and analyze earthwork progress.

Image courtesy of Obayashi

Benefits of model-based design

Integrated analysis – Earthwork had been managed by controlling the number of dump trucks used for delivery and removal. However, capturing the overall site with UAV and modeling with ReCap360 and then conducting earthwork management in Civil 3D based on these models enabled more advanced analysis of earthwork progress control in a shorter period of time.

Simulation – Due to the unique nature of earthquake reconstruction projects, it is essential that mutual understanding with local residents be achieved as the project is promoted. IW360 was extremely effective for explanations of the project and detailed explanations of the construction work.

Visualization – It is understandable that 3D is effective in reducing the time needed to achieve consensus. In the course of achieving consensus for this project, however, it was possible not only to reduce the amount of time required but also to increase the number of items to be studied and conduct discussions in greater depth. The result was even deeper affection for and love of their community on the part of local residents.

Cloud – The ability of all relevant entities to instantly check data was an advantage. The Obayashi head office which was providing backup is located 600 km from the site at Yamada-machi, but this distance did not become a disadvantage.


Image courtesy of Obayashi

Project results

Time-savings – Although this cannot be measured since construction is still in progress, the schedule was shortened by approximately 30% as compared to the schedule that was planned initially. This is particularly true of the consensus-building part of the operation. (IW360 was used for explanations to achieve a consensus regarding construction methods, as well as to explain that the introduction of a conveyor belt and other equipments as a safety measure, which was not planned initially, had made it possible to shorten the construction period.)

Money savings – Because consensus was achieved more quickly than anticipated, costs such as personnel expenses and machinery lease fees could be processed accurately with no wait time. Although construction is still in progress, even at present, construction costs have been reduced 15% as compared to initial estimates.

Project performance – By using Civil 3D, IW360 and other tools, the team increased the accuracy of the initial design content in the same period of time, and it was possible to use this content in the construction study. Consensus-building for the implementation of the project, including discussions with the owner, was achieved 50%.

Project delivery – Previously, the effectiveness of using 3D for construction management was limited to armchair theorizing. In the Yamada-machi project, Obayashi experienced this effectiveness directly, which led them to employ 3D for construction management on a company-wide basis.

Sustainability impact

Impact on ecosystem and water resources – Obayashi created models in Civil 3D as well, and imported them to the computer-aided construction terminals in LandXML format, increasing construction efficiency. The effort for computer-aided construction increased the efficiency of the construction process, leading to reducing CO2 emissions. The speed of construction was 35% greater than in conventional construction operations, and this also led to reduced CO2 emissions.

Use of sustainable materials in construction – The earth and sand excavated from tunnels in the new road construction projects being conducted in the surrounding area as part of the earthquake reconstruction effort were brought in and used to raise the height of embankments in order to prevent future tsunami damage. In order to transport the earth and sand efficiently, a traffic management system was adopted, in which dump trucks were equipped with smartphones to enable their location to be controlled, thereby achieving efficient transport of earth and sand.

Sustainable neighborhood developments – The basic approach is to minimize construction in order to reduce environmental load. Accordingly, prior to construction, Obayashi used 3D models to develop methods to shorten construction time and confirm the ecosystems at construction locations in advance. In order to minimize the generation of dust and dirt, they check the wind direction and other factors in advance to prevent the generation of dust and dirt during large-scale land preparation.

Reducing environmental consequences of construction and operation – There was only one public road that could be used as a work road for the construction, and there was a traffic signal nearby. For this reason, it was not possible to install a new traffic signal, and there was concern that dump trucks turning left and right would create traffic congestion. Obayashi used 3D models in the discussions about traffic in order to discuss such issues as the locations where work roads could be provided to alleviate traffic congestion. This reduced the amount of time needed for discussions with police officials.

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