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Project focus: how ‘digital twins’ delivered better infrastructure in Chengdu and Porto

Projecting the Future challenge paper five smart cities, urbanisation and connectivity explores changes that will inevitably affect project management. This case study explores how China and Portugal improved infrastructure with their smart project.

With pressure on local and central governments to deliver better infrastructure to maintain economic growth in an increasingly unpredictable world, new technologies and techniques are required to ensure projects are delivered efficiently and with optimum value.

Smart technologies allows project teams to test their ideas more rigorously in virtual environments. By creating a digital ‘twin’ of the city, they can run scenarios and test their assumptions thoroughly before breaking any ground.

The results are improved public safety and smarter, more resilient infrastructure. Here are examples of two projects that used this technology to deliver their projects smarter.

Chengdu, China

Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province. It is undergoing a CNY1.38bn road reconstruction project in the Shanbanquio area of the city, involving 4.3km of roads, as well as bridges, tunnels, an underground pedestrian passageway, pipeline and auxiliary works. The main road needed to accommodate cars travelling at 60km per hour – auxiliary roads would support speeds of 40km per hour.

The project team faced several design challenges. There were space constraints between the elevated and lower portions of the roadway and the connectors. The designs had to ensure smooth traffic flow on the connectors and slower lanes that connect to commercial businesses along both sides of the roadway. The project team then had to consider how it would design a safe pedestrian passage system along the green space and parks next to high traffic areas. The company leading the project, Chengdu Urban Construction Investment Management Group, required a high level of coordination at the design stage to avoid mistakes, omissions, and collisions.

The team used Bentley open modelling and simulation applications to create digital twins of all project assets. This was used to model bridge structures and develop a strategy to minimize the impact on local traffic. ProjectWise was chosen to store the road network information required for traffic simulation. This helped the team to increase internal work efficiency by 20%, detect and resolve 16 collision points, and reduce construction drawing time by 120 hours. Using LumenRT for visualization shortened the approval process by 15%.

“Intelligent transportation and the digital model are the foundation of a digital city. Digital twins provide a lightweight model, which expands the use of BIM applications beyond the project to the delivery of digital assets. Digital twins can be directly applied to the owner’s planning, construction, demolition, and other management,” said Yanxiang Wang, BIM engineer, Chengdu Urban Construction Investment Management Group.

Porto, Portugal

Águas do Porto (AdP) is responsible for the sustainable and integrated management of the entire urban water cycle in Porto. It delivers an average of 45,490 cubic meters of water daily and collects approximately the same amount for treatment. The hydraulic infrastructure and water resources in Porto are dense and complex. It complicates the integration requirements for the varied existing systems throughout the company.

To integrate information across multiple software systems, AdP decided to leverage digital twins as part of a project dubbed H2Porto. The team integrated multiple systems, including OpenFlows FLOOD, OpenFlows WaterGEMS, OpenFlows SewerGEMS, and ACTION Server. This produced fully integrated digital twins of the complete city water network.

Phase one of the project saw the creation of an environment that integrated data from customer service management, billing, maintenance, project management, asset accounting, operational systems and lab management, among others. Phase II involved integrating data from sensors, telemetry, and remote management, including 30,000 telemetry meters and more than 200 devices.

The digital twins include three meteorological models: combined sewer and storm models for the seafront; estuary, coastal area, and wave models; and forecasting models. These provide access to real-time information to produce forecasts and to automatically update boundary conditions from water consumption and network sensors.

The system is used to run network scenario analysis for pipe bursts and valve and pump shut-downs. The benefits so far include operating gains of 25%, around 30% reduction in water supply failures and 8% decrease in the time taken to repair burst pipes.

Phase three is now underway, focused on installing sensors and automating the decision-making tools and interfaces, particularly for sensor analysis, water supply models, burst simulations, meter operational management, KPIs, hydrodynamic models faecal coliform prediction, and coastal hydrometeorology.

“H2Porto is an important catalyst for the digital transformation supporting changes in people, process, and technology and most importantly, helps us with operational mobility and the provision of information in real-time on any device,” said Pedro Vieira, IT and innovation director, Águas do Porto.

Brought to you by Project journal.