The Future of Connected Bridge Design Starts Now

Armundo Darling April 15, 2020

4 min read

The global population is growing and urbanizing — by 2050, there will be around 10 billion people on the planet, according to the United Nations, and 70 percent of those will be living in cities. This means that nations all over the world will have to invest in upgrading existing civil structures as well as building new infrastructure to serve residents in these expanding urban centers. It’s estimated that more than 300,000 new bridges need to be built over the next three decades to meet the needs of these new urban dwellers.

Add to this that in America alone, research by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has revealed that many of the nation’s bridges need replacing or repairing, with around 188 million trips being made each day across structurally deficient bridges, most of which are concrete and steel bridges that cross over highways and railways.

With so many bridges in need of building, upgrading, updating or replacing, making the bridge design process more efficient, cost effective and collaborative is a priority for civil engineers everywhere.

At Autodesk, we want to help businesses grow by boosting operational efficiency, reducing risk and helping to improve project delivery. That is why we have focused on developing the software tools and processes that can help you achieve these goals.

Bridging the collaboration gap

Traditionally, the bridge design process has been hampered by the lack of true collaboration options for the key members of the project — the road designers, bridge designers and the documentation team — who haven’t been able to easily share and amend their designs across platforms. Work has been done in silos and each team then has to manually adapt their model when changes are made elsewhere, meaning that the design of projects is more prone to errors, takes longer to complete and delays handover to the construction teams.

As the Product Manager leading the development of the new Autodesk civil structures workflow, I am happy to say that the workflow has significantly improved the collaboration problem, as it allows these teams to work together on design projects using the software in the AEC civil structures workflow collection. The teams can share the one design and make updates to it that can be seen and easily applied by all.

The workflow is currently used for typical highway bridges and will soon be available for many other bridge types, providing the same ease of use for more bridge design projects.

How does it work?

The bridge design workflow

Bringing together three of our design tools — Autodesk InfraWorks, Autodesk Civil 3D and Autodesk Revit — the bridge design workflow connects the road design, bridge design and documentations team in one project model. This applies to teams within one organization as well as in partner organizations. If your business often partners with others, you can still enjoy the collaboration benefits of the bridge design workflow.

When the road design team starts the project, for example, they create their design model in Civil 3D. Once they have a design they are happy with, they publish it to the workflow and the bridge design team can then get started on their part of the design process. They build their bridge on the road using InfraWorks, and once they have completed their initial design, they publish again, which means their colleagues in road design can access the latest version. Or this can be done the other way around, and the bridge design team can start off the process. The documentation team can also access and amend the project using Autodesk Revit.

Whenever a change is made to the road or bridge design model, the software can automatically adapt the dimensions of the other steps, and team members can explain the changes they’ve made in a notes element. Plus, the designers can choose from a range of components in the catalog to find the best ones for each project. Because this is an “open” workflow, teams can also leverage Autodesk Inventor to extend the bridge components libraries with their own requirements.

Since users can so easily adapt the components and dimensions in just a few clicks, teams can go through the ‘optioneering’ phase early in the initial concept design phase to try out different design options and find the best solution.

Efficient and collaborative workflow

The bridge design workflow can help your business deliver civil infrastructure projects more efficiently and collaboratively. Because all three teams can add their own input into a single project model, this is a big step forward in workflow management for bridge design projects.

Construction documentation and detailing can now commence a lot sooner than previously, as it can be easily amended. The project can get started in Revit early on, and civil engineering professionals can complete their planning and cost assessments for the bridge project well in advance.

The workflow enables engineers to more easily manage bridge design projects from concept, through preliminary design to detailed design, significantly cutting the time it takes to move through those stages and providing better project outcomes.

If you’d like to find out more about how the workflow can help your business improve efficiency and collaboration, you can get free 30-day trials of Civil 3D, Revit, InfraWorks, and many more essential BIM tools included in the Autodesk AEC Collection.

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