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Early Cost Estimating with InfraWorks

AEC Excellence Awards // 2018

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Bane NOR and Norconsult used InfraWorks to develop an innovative approach for early costing during preliminary design—helping Norway deliver high quality railway networks for less money.
Image courtesy of Bane NOR, Norconsult, Asplan Viak


To help deliver high-quality railways for less money, Bane NOR and Norconsult are using InfraWorks for early cost estimating.

Modernizing the Vestfold line

Norway is in the midst of developing a new double-track high-speed railway between the largest cities in the southern part of Norway. Scheduled for completion between 2024 and 2034, this long-range plan is being carried out in phases by Bane NOR—the Norwegian government agency responsible for owning, maintaining, operating, and developing the country’s railway network.

One the sections of this plan is an upgrade to part of the Vestfold line, from Tønsberg south to Larvik. The project includes roughly 40 kilometers of new track and five new stations. The project is in the preliminary planning phase, with Bane NOR and Norconsult—Bane NOR’s design consultant on this project—using InfraWorks to find an optimal route between the two towns.

The importance of cost estimating

One the planning team’s main goals is to find a corridor for the new railway line that gives the highest cost-per-benefit ratio balanced against the environmental impact. Since there are many alternative routes over the expanse of 40 kilometers, and those design alternatives are changing constantly, keeping track of the project’s cost estimates is both difficult and time-consuming.

The traditional approach for cost estimating on a project like this involves a 3- to 4-day meeting of over a dozen professionals who decide cost classes and document their decisions via paper drawings. This information is then translated to spreadsheet format, which requires several more days of manual effort. Due to cost and time considerations, many months can go by before this effort is repeated. As a result, costs are not typically an integrated part of traditional decision-making during early infrastructure design.

But, clearly, if engineers and decision-makers understood the costs of design changes, their decisions would lead to better and less expensive solutions. Therefore, on a project of this scope (with costs differences of hundreds of millions of dollars), Bane NOR and Norconsult needed to rethink how it could integrate cost into its early design process.

Image courtesy of Bane NOR, Norconsult, Asplan Viak


An integrated InfraWorks cost model gives the team automatic costing feedback as they develop their preliminary design.

Image courtesy of Bane NOR, Norconsult, Asplan Viak

Integrating early designs with costs

The team is using InfraWorks as a shared collaboration tool to link early design efforts and cost estimating. Bane NOR has an extensive costing database based on experience from many of their built projects. This database has been programmatically integrated with InfraWorks design tools. This integration uses Excel data tables, InfraWorks railway styles, and InfraWorks tooltips to give the team automatic costing feedback as they develop their preliminary design in InfraWorks.

The design team utilizes costing data from Bane NOR’s costing data by classifying and grouping different sections of railway per meter in InfraWorks—based on parameters such as ‘easy’, ‘average’, ‘difficult’, and ‘above ground’, ‘bridge’, ‘tunnel’—for different ground conditions.

By creating a library of railway styles in InfraWorks for all the different InfraWorks railway classes and connecting them to Bane NOR’s costing database, the team is able to automatically estimate costs as the corridor route and design changes. When changes are made in InfraWorks to the track’s vertical or horizontal alignment placement, or when an alternative railway style is added, the integration script automatically updates the costs and InfraWorks tooltips provide automatic costing feedback.

We needed a new process to integrate cost and design. Linking InfraWorks and costing databases helps the team’s project engineers and decision-makers understand the cost consequences of design changes, leading to better and less-expensive design solutions.

—Thomas Angeltveit, BIM Manager Rail, Norconsult AS


Potential savings

Bane NOR and Norconsult have piloted this integrated costing approach on ten kilometers of the Vestfold line project. During live design review meetings, the cost consequences of design changes were automatically visible to all disciplines, including environment, agriculture, cultural heritage, threatened species, and geotechnical conditions.

The integrated InfraWorks cost model helps everyone understand how costs for different preliminary design alternatives impact the various disciplines and the overall project cost. As a result, the team has identified cost savings between 50 to 70 million dollars on just this 10-kilometer section alone. Given the total length of the Vestfold line improvement combined with the other rail updates on Bane NOR’s agenda, this potential savings could translate into billions of dollars across these other projects.

Integrating cost and early design has resulted in:

  • Multidiscipline understanding of cost consequences due to design changes
  • Potentially huge design savings
  • Reduced manual labor
  • An innovative approach for meeting the government’s mandate of delivering high-quality railways for less money

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