Advancing Infrastructure: New approaches and best practices in technology and design

New approaches and best practices in technology and design

A recurrent problem in the infrastructure domain is that of inadequate surveys and unrepresentative detailed drawings. Other key challenges include delays in getting approvals for projects, design variations and changing work orders. An important aspect is change in project scope. It impacts the efficient use of several technologies such as 5D building, information modelling, and collaboration technology. According to international reports, total project costs increase three- to fourfold due to these and several other challenges.

Indian Infrastructure hosted a special interactive session in association with Bentley Systems on “Advancing Infrastructure: New Approaches and Best Practices” in New Delhi on August 23, 2017. The session saw the participation of road developers, contractors, consultants and technology providers. The stakeholders came together to discuss how an increase in technology deployment will lead to efficient project implementation.

In a nutshell, collaboration, communication and correspondence are crucial elements with respect to documentation, compliance, conflict management and clash avoidance in a project. These are also imperative to getting the right designs and implementing projects within the estimated costs. Moreover, large-scale infrastructure projects entail the involvement of several stakeholders. These stakeholders should not work as individual entities but instead form an organisation for collaboration to make the project execution efficient and ensure cost savings. Data collection, and that too on a massive scale, is the biggest challenge. Factors such as the position of a land mass, encumbrances along the right of way, and traffic estimates have to be integrated with state-level master plans for sound project implementation.

In focus

The construction of a large project is a very complex process. To begin with, in a contract, there are certain requirements, typically linked to the owner, the owner’s engineers, different organisations, and industry codes and standards.

Design technology is an important aspect of a project. One aspect to stress upon is whether the design technology is available; whether solutions exist for an individual piece of engineering. However, there is a need to bring all stakeholders together in a common data environment.

Virtualisation Infrastructure Management (VIM) is not just a technology but is actually more of a process. It is intended to bring people together to collaborate on efficient methods of designing, delivering and maintaining assets.

In order to define common data in VIM there are two aspects, one is engineering and the other is about managing contracts, document control, change management, compliance with specifications and evidence of delivering to specification. Therefore, Bentley is playing an important role in bringing people together, and ensuring that one can manage contracts better with transparency and react to situations in a time-bound manner.

Individual engineering components such as buildings, structures, roads and bridges deploy different sets of technologies and software tools. VIM will integrate all these components to avoid clashes and check ratios, and will be able to present time and cost simulations.

As far as design and preparation are concerned, survey technologies have changed radically with the advent of LIDAR (light detection and ranging)-based surveys which are accurate, though costly. VIM is a potential tool for project management. If accurate data on the ground situation is available, the design will be quite correct. Unfortunately, in most cases, surveys are not accurate and as a result designs are not correct. This results in contract changes, value changes and cost changes. With regard to design, various tools are available such as the Staad Pro software. What is important is that the final drawing should be a true representation of the site. This will result in much faster project implementation.

The industry offers solutions to digitise

surveys; however, it is important to ensure synchronisation among the relevant authorities. For example, in the case of highways, the design also captures the entire road network along the highway. It is pertinent to note that generally surveys are conducted for straight highways or curves; however, the junctions are usually missed. Traffic modulations and simulations need to be done in the right manner. A case in point is the Rao Tula Ram flyover project in Delhi where traffic simulations have gone wrong completely. While digitisation is very important, it should be conducted not only for the terrain, but also for the assets which have already been delivered, as this provides a database on the history of projects that have been delivered in the past.

Most of the time there are several tools available to do things correctly, but it is the input that is important. In the majority of cases, either the input data is not available or the designer does not give adequate time to these aspects. In most of the engineering, procurement and construction contracts, design and construction commence simultaneously. What is required is adequate time for the design phase. The time invested in this phase has reduced substantially.

Over time, loading and site distance requirements have evolved. Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology has the capability to bring in efficiency to capture the properties of elements even when 3D modelling is being done.

One option is to plan ahead and have the data in place earlier so that when a project is rolled out, the authority does not have to call upon a consultant to get the data. For instance, the Australian government has digitised the entire terrain to help consultants automatically pick digitised maps and look for two or three feasibile options and quickly roll out the project. The other important aspect in the current scenario is that most projects have to obtain environmental clearances. In addition, a number of states have banned mining activity. These issues need to be factored in at the planning and design stage. There are multiple agencies involved and all of them have to collaborate and come together to perform a common task – that of completing the project.

The government has mandated that no tender will be floated till all the clearances are in place and the land is acquired.

In terms of technology, the country is advancing at a faster pace in the highways sector versus other sectors such as rail, roads, ports, etc. From a design and engineering perspective, airport development has taken a leap forward as primarily overseas consultants are engaged, who have brought in their niche technologies. Meanwhile, there are very few domestic players that can match their competencies. It is basically the international exposure which has brought about the sea change with respect to the good airports such as those in Mumbai and Delhi. Rapid strides have also been taken in the urban rail segment.

In terms of design engineering, there are technologies available. With regard to collaboration, the Nagpur metro is a good example. It entailed not just building the model, but at the same time ensuring the involvement of and interaction with various stakeholders. Besides this, there is a lot of software which people are using for document control. In the urban infrastructure segment, there is a need for a public database which different agencies contribute to, which can perhaps be managed by the urban local body (ULB). Currently, nothing of this sort is happening in India. In the smart cities segment, there are some areas like Jaipur, and probably Indore and Bhopal, where the ULBs are trying to create a detailed model of urban infrastructure like roads, drains, etc.

Everyone benefits from integrated planning. With regard to surveys, 3D models can be used for urban renewal programmes. Overall, there is an urgent need for the government to take the lead and plan comprehensive road network development. At the state level, Odisha has taken the lead and developed an asset management plan for the entire state and a future development plan for roads based on traffic data, land mass and various other parameters. It is definitely possible for a country like India to develop such a system and formulate a blueprint for road development. This will pave the way for technological innovation and planning.


The government has shown a positive intent towards technology use and digitisation and is continuously working towards increasing its penetration. However, this may be diluted because of the inherent complexity, political changes, etc. A case in point is the recently launched Indian Bridge Management System under which an inventory of all the bridges in the country and their condition is being recorded. While the government is increasingly using technology, it will take time for adoption across infrastructure sectors. While the industry’s expectations are far more than the government’s efforts, things are moving, albeit slowly.