Using Data For Design and Planning

As we discussed in our last blog, it is critical to learn from past performances. In the aircraft example we used, there was a clear case of survivor bias, something that if we are blind to can prevent lessons from being learned. Therefore, we must analyse projects that succeeded and failed projects because even the most successful projects have areas for improvement.

So how can we use data to improve the design and planning process?

Industry and Big Data

According to Next Tech:

An incredible 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. A staggering figure, it is expected that the volume of data is to double every two years[1].

Therefore, turning data into insights can potentially create opportunities to add value, enhance knowledge, create new services and more. An excellent example of how data is used for access and insight is the Department of Transport and Mains Roads’ QTRIP online, which showcases the state’s road investment program, breaking the data down into regions, projects, financial contributions and more.

It shows how data can be visualised so that viewers can see where investments are planned and drill down into a project by project detail. Industry can use the information to direct business development efforts, understand where the money is going to be invested, where services will be required, and where future opportunities may lie and more.

There are also datasets, such as crash data, which can be mapped and used to create further insights, improve safety, support awareness campaigns, and more.

How do Civil Project Partners use Big Data?

We use data in numerous ways throughout our business, particularly when we plan projects, create schedules and develop supply chain and cost strategies.

We have recently created a resource for project planning for quarry products. Crucial to the success of our clients’ civil projects, we can develop an estimate of cost which is bespoke to the project’s scope and location.

Our Quarry Map details the quarries in Queensland, the type of resource they contain and maps their location. It is a simple use of data – we mapped TMR’s approved quarries from their published list – and suddenly, we can visualise the project and the quarry, its resource base and location.

As a resource, it is invaluable when calculating how our supply chain could support a job, enabling us to factor in resource availability, transport times, freight costs and more.

Data source:

PUP Management

Further to that, we also utilise similar resources for complex construction challenges like PUP. PUP conflicts can be a source of high project risk, particularly for complex works in highly urban areas, and there are many case studies out there where PUP challenges have caused significant cost and time delays.

Energex, Queensland Urban Utilities, Urban Utilities and APA have Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping tools available that allow for datasets to be interrogated, revealing the locations of existing assets.

Similar tools exist across many regional councils. Each resource gives project planners and delivery partners greater certainty when planning a project, scheduling works, and avoiding challenges when moving from design to delivery.

Project Visualisation

We also use 4d programs to help visualise the construction methodology and staging. By taking a methodology and staging plan and turning it into a simple to follow video that has multiple benefits. From visualising the approach to gaining buy-in and understanding from delivery teams on how the job will be delivered, the detail of the visualisation can be as complex as required depending on need and available data.

For a recent tender, we developed a 4d model used in communication and review of a tender program. The model demonstrates the effectiveness of taking data and using it to power a visual reference of how the project is intended to be delivered.

The Future

If data is here to stay and is being collected at an unprecedented rate, then one thing is for certain; our industry will need to be smarter about capturing data and turning it into insights.

The time cannot be too far away when the bill of quantities is issued under a federated model where contractor’s extract can extrapolate their own quantities, understand the detailed specification and more. However, it will require some work to find a way to link quantified items to a model. Built with the increasingly widespread implementation of BIM, the day cannot be too far away.

On sites, we already see examples of how augmented reality can provide an understanding of everything from a complete project visualisation down to PUP conflicts. Imagine visiting a prospective site and seeing the PUP placements in real-time, with clearly annotated notes and specifications.

As it turns out, the future isn’t that far away.


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