The Woolgoolga to Ballina Upgrade (W2B) is an immense undertaking that involves a 155-kilometre upgrade of New South Wales’ Pacific Highway to dual carriageway, along with major grade separated interchanges and upgrades of existing roads.
Due to the sheer scope of the project, the client – Pacific Complete – separated the extensive design and construction works into a number of portions.
An Arup-Cardno Joint Venture (ACJV) tendered for and successfully won the detailed design contract for Woolgoolga to Ballina Portion C in November 2015, which comprises sections 7, 8 and 9 of the wider project.
This works package involves a 35-kilometre realignment and upgrade of the existing Pacific Highway to dual-lane carriageway between Devils Pulpit and Richmond River. Grade-separated interchanges to provide access to the Woodburn and Broadwater townships from the highway also comprised the project.
Niall Brady, Senior Engineer – Transport & Resources at Arup, worked on the project and explains that its design challenges required a unique solution from the get-go.
The brief called for the project team to implement digital engineering processes during detailed design as part of Roads and Maritime Services initiative to use building information modelling (BIM) technologies. This was to provide the capability to create and manage the delivery of the project effectively and streamline future maintenance of the asset.
“BIM hasn’t been completed in an infrastructure project in NSW or Australia to this level of detail before,” he says.
The naming – or tagging – elements within the design had to align with the Pacific Complete BIM naming protocols. The tagging of highway design elements included accurate 3D models of all pavement layers, earthworks, kerbs, line marking and safety barriers, with the model divided into 100-metre intervals for tagging individual items.
Likewise, the drainage elements required a 3D model for all pipes, headwall, culverts, basins and drainage channels, all of which required their own tag.
“The brief was quite complex in that every element had to be named using these protocols – every signpost, barrier – every aspect had to have its own individual tag,” says Mr. Brady.
He explains that the benefits of such comprehensive tagging would allow the asset owner to individually identify elements that would require maintenance, such as safety barriers, during operation.
Pacific Complete’s naming protocol contained more than 100 components that needed to be tagged and subdivided into location, direction, family and number.
Mr. Brady says the design team had to approach the project unlike any other highway project because of the complexities of the modelling, tagging design elements and dividing the alignment into 100-metre sections.
The ACJV would eventually have nearly 100 staff working on the project at its height, so the sheer scale of the undertaking was always a challenge.
“Before we started the project, we had to see how we could deliver on these very ominous requirements,” says Mr. Brady.
To address these significant hurdles, the ACJV team needed to find the right software to provide a comprehensive solution. Mr. Brady was responsible for completing a review of the available software for implementing the digital engineering aspects on the project. The aim was to identify the most efficient process to complete the project’s BIM requirements, while also catering for cross collaboration between different disciplines.
Given its latest developments with 3D mesh surfaces (known as trimeshes), use of snippets (coding tools) to standardise naming, and workflow tools – or chains – to help streamline processes, 12d Solutions’ design software was selected for the civil aspects of the project.
The design team was responsible for developing the customised snippets and chains to create the BIM models for the highway and drainage elements, as well as applying unique attributes to each element and the correct naming conventions.
To ensure the project met its design briefs, predominantly adhering to the BIM naming protocols set out in the brief, Mr. Brady developed a 12d Project Plan.
“The alignment was divided into individual 12d projects with strict naming convention for models and strings to ensure clean collaboration between sections and disciplines and consistent naming for BIM tagging,” he explains.
Mr. Brady says the software’s user-friendly design meant it saved hours of time, cost and effort for the overall design team.
“We had up to 15 12d users working on the project who all came with different experience and it was easy for them to pick up the software and run with it,” he says.
“The road alignment and drainage elements could be done in 12d and then shared in other discipline’s models, which meant we could do clash detection very easily – it was all very dynamic.”
He says the BIM models were exported from the 12d model consisting of 3D mesh surfaces saved with Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) files. This industry standard format allowed the BIM models to be imported into Autodesk Navisworks along with the structural bridge and culvert models, to check for said clashes between design elements and existing utilities.
Mr. Brady says this approach allowed all design models, from different design software, to be collaborated and reviewed in one 3D space.
To undertake the process of labelling and scheduling all kerbs, barriers, line marking and water quality basins, the team developed chains using 12d Model software to automatically tag these elements in the design plans. The schedules were then outputted to Excel with little manual input from the team. He says the ability to create macros within 12d allowed the team to then import the tags from the Excel schedule to AutoCAD to display the tags on all the drawings. Not only did this process ensure consistency but it helped to remove human error in AutoCAD labelling the elements.
Mr. Brady surmises that the ability to control the naming and to set up standard snippets using 12d Model software meant it was a real asset to the project.
As a result of its successful employment of 12d Model software on the W2B Section C project, the ACJV was awarded with the 2016 Customisation Award at the 2016 12d International Innovation Awards. “It was very new what we were doing with BIM and in 12d, but it showed just how the software helped deliver the project and the benefits that it brought to the design team.”