Comment: Stonehenge joins the digital age with Bentley and National Highways

07/07/2023
Paul Rotter

Paul Rotter, marketing manager at Bentley Systems, discusses a pilot of a digital twin platform on the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel project.

Bentley Systems worked with National Highways to create a digital twin system for better data organisation, streamlining roadway design and construction management information.

Huge amounts of mapping and visual data from different sources, including LiDAR and photography from drones, are uploaded into the ProjectWise platform, where it is stored and divided into relevant categories. The data is then extracted and put through the iTwin platform to create a visual digital twin of the Stonehenge location – supported by the necessary technical, engineering and geolocation information.

Information rich, data accessibility poor

All phases of the Stonehenge scheme - which involves the construction of a new dual carriageway and an underground tunnel closely following the existing A303 route - will create massive amounts of data, which need to be organised, stored, and readily accessible to project teams and stakeholders.

Like many organisations, National Highways is information rich with siloed data. This reduced the potential for added value, and results in inefficiencies.

'By not maintaining a full-fidelity copy of engineering design data with ontology intact, [we] had no way of repurposing design data and frequently incurred substantial costs each year recollecting data on existing assets to support updates to or new schemes of work,' stated Andrew Smith, digital engineering lead at National Highways.

National Highways wanted to understand how the exchange of design data could be improved, digitised, expedited, and enhanced to provide higher levels of accessibility, security of digital assets, and cost-saving benefits.

Their previous data management processes relied on paying third parties within their supply chain to store data on their behalf, costing thousands of pounds a year.

This situation was further complicated by having information delivered in PDF format, making data review and interrogation difficult, as well as requiring installation of additional viewing software on local PCs.

LiDAR and drone survey data and photogrammetry were often not delivered or just stored in mass storage locations with no associated metadata.

'We needed to develop a digital engineering information management solution that would maintain data fidelity and relationships of delivered information,' said Mr Smith.

Leveraging iTwin and ProjectWise provides digital framework

National Highways selected the Stonehenge project to evaluate its information strategy and improve its data architecture and intelligence.

'In the absence of good quality asset design data or any mechanism for collaboration, we undertook a review of business requirements, supply chain processes, and available solutions in the marketplace,' stated Mr Smith.

After assessing different technology options, the national roads operator decided to pilot ProjectWise and the Bentley iTwin platform to exchange and manage project design data.

The applications seemed to complement existing systems while also strengthening information management capabilities and developing digital maturity.

ProjectWise provided a master repository of engineering content and associated metadata in a web-based platform, streamlining collaboration and automating transmittals between internal project participants and external supply chain members—without the need to install additional software locally on devices.

Working in a cloud-based environment using Bentley’s powerful and comprehensive software data sets in excess of 100 gigabytes were captured, including approximately 13,000 aerial captured site photographs, which provided valuable insight into the World Heritage Site status of Stonehenge.

Integrating iTwin enabled multi-sourced data to be aggregated, federated, and more accessible. National Highways used the Bentley-based solution to provide a digital framework, offering a single view of all types of information and establishing an intelligent, reusable data architecture that maps, defines, and relates datasets for better decision-making.

Digitization drives collaboration and connectivity

'Enhanced digital maturity and collaboration has resulted from this initiative, both internally within project teams and externally with our supply chain,' said Mr Smith.

The integrated ProjectWise and iTwin solution allows Nationa Highways to use data created within the supply chain more proactively, allowing them to better understand the design process, costs, risks, and environmental impact.

This insight resulted in more timely and better-informed decisions, supporting better outcomes for the built asset.

Working in a connected, cloud-based platform where data is easily accessible and organised with its ontology and provenance saves considerable time, reduces resources, and facilitates data reuse during the construction phase.

Piloting the Bentley-based information management system on the A303 Stonehenge tunnel design improved data exchange efficiencies by 70% and data federation by 50% on the project.

The digital twin technology is driving collaboration and connectivity within previous fragmented data management processes, as well as enhancing connectivity within the World Heritage Site.

'Already, the A303 ProjectWise and iTwin are exceeding initial business requirements and [we] are working closely with Bentley to look at a more sophisticated iTwin functionality to support [our digital journey],' said Mr Smith.

Images courtesy of National Highways.

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