The Value of 3D Workflows

bentley 1Background

In 2014 AECOM combined with URS Corporation to establish the world’s #1-ranked engineering design firm by revenue, according to Engineering News-Record magazine. More importantly, in 2015, they were recognized by Fortune magazine for the first time as a World’s Most Admired Company. Quite an honor in such a short period of time.

AECOM is listed on the Fortune 500 as one of America’s largest companies. Their talented employees — including architects, engineers, designers, planners, scientists and management professionals — now serve clients in more than 150 countries around the world.

One of those employees is Adam Wieczorek who started his professional career in 2007 an Assistant Road Designer and has since collected experience on various kind of transportation infrastructure projects. Starting with local roads and streets to finally be involved in the largest and most complex road and airport schemes in Poland.  

In 2012 he became a road designer entitled to perform independent technical functions in the building industry as a designer of roads, runways, taxiways and aprons without size limitation. Since 2008 he has worked as InRoads and PowerCivil Instructor for Bentley Institute, providing top design firms and government agencies with consultancy services, training classes and workshops. He is interested in utilization of computer aided designing and 3D modelling to enhance construction works, ensure constructability and reduce construction costs and risks.


As you would imagine AECOM utilizes cad software from leading vendors, including Bentley Systems and Autodesk.  Adam works in a road design team. Other teams may have different experience with software, 3D, LiDAR and other technologies.

Adam noted, “We use a wide portfolio of Bentley products. Starting with MicroStation as our main modelling tool; Descartes and Pointools for point clouds processing; and InRoads/OpenRoads for road modelling. We recently started to work with ContextCapture. We can see big potential in deploying that software along with reality meshes in our workflows.”

Adam continued, “I need to also mention ProjectWise as our collaboration platform. This is essential as we are working on international projects where distributed teams across the world are involved. ProjectWise enables us to provide lidar data streaming – that is very handy as we need to distribute big lidar data across all teams.”  

Adam explained that MicroStation is a great integration platform since most of the other Bentley products use this environment.  “We often push software to its limits. By working closely with Bentley product managers and Bentley support we can take advantage of Bentley LEARNserver. Colleagues involved in a project can also be assigned to Learning Paths to get skills needed for project delivery.”

bentley 2Innovative 3D Technology

One example of a highway design project that presented a number of challenges to Adam and his team was a feasibility study including preliminary design and an Environmental Impact Assessment for 31.5km of the E4 road (TEN-T corridor) between Ljungby and Tofatanäs in Småland (south of Sweden). The project included upgrading from 2+1 road to full motorway standard (2+2).

Adam explained, “This section of E4 is the last part not to have full motorways standard between Helisingborg (south of Sweden) and Gävle (a total length of more than 700 km). Along the section there are 4 interchanges, 28 bridges (9 over and 19 along the E4 including 2 over the rivers) and 2 services to be adopted to the new road geometry. We worked with 3d laser scanning data shared via ProjectWise point cloud streaming technology.”

Dynamic 3D OpenRoads modeling made it possible for Adam’s team to analyze many different design solutions that were automatically checked against available space constraints (optioneering). Adam recalled, “We were able to present to the client many different design scenarios explaining pluses and minuses of each. At the same time a full 3D presentation and laser survey data made us more comfortable when making suggestions. We believe that thanks to the OpenRoads technology we were able to deliver a better quality product.”

This project involved more than 15 sub-consultants located in many different locations (including field operations) in different countries. Adam explained, “The only solution to provide good quality control and data management was to implement a well-defined data environment and workflow. On this project our single source of truth was ProjectWise (PW). Only data stored in PW was accepted and all the project members (over 70 people) were required to work only in ProjectWise.”

3D Workflows

Part of the project was the preservation of existing overbridges. Some of the overbridges were arc-shaped and skewed to the E4 centerline. Adam explained, “With terrestrial laser scanning of each overbridge we are sure there is no conflict with the bridge structure and highway clearance. This was essential to minimizing the lowering of the existing profile under bridges – utilization of existing carriageway pavement, visual composition, traffic safety and more. Scanned data was vectorized with Descartes using the profile by section tool.”

Airborne lidar data was used to create digital terrain models. This created a massive data set so Descartes was used to create scalable terrain models (STM). We draped aerial imagery onto the STM to improve the visualization. That helped to analyze existing conditions. The liar

In addition, point cloud data was used to extract linear features such as overhead power lines, edges of pavement, and pavement markings. Terrestrial scans of overbridges were vectorized to create 3D as-built models of the structures. Adam noted, “We find Pointools to be very efficient to review huge point clouds.”

Looking Ahead

When asked about the use of 3D on future projects Adam explained that they rely completely on Bentley and others for the tools they need to solve complex problems while providing their clients with the best solution that they can find.

Adam explained, “The 3D model is not a by-product of the design, it is the design. Designing in 3D is a must. Our industry is very demanding, construction schedules are very tight, so there is no room for errors or clashes during the construction phase. Using 3D in the design phase helps to eliminate these errors. Designing in 3D means designing with confidence. The future of design is quite clear. You can call it BIM –  3D models that are enhanced with additional business related data that allows us to progress to 4D, 5D, 6D and beyond.”

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