Progress Updates February 17, 2015 No Comments

Virtual First, Actual Second Building Digital 3D Models Helps Refine Design and Organize Construction

February 17, 2015
Virtual First, Actual Second Building Digital 3D Models Helps Refine Design and Organize Construction
March 5, 2014

Bridge builders are using 3D technology to build the new crossing in a virtual world.

Long before the first foundations of the New NY Bridge project were installed, Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) engaged experts at HDR Inc., an architectural and engineering firm with offices in Pearl River, NY, to build the new crossing in a virtual world.

The scale and complexity of the New NY Bridge project, the largest bridge and highway project in North America, led HDR to utilize state-of-the-art building information modeling (BIM). BIM enables designers to visualize a structure in three dimensions (3D) and from infinite vantage points – long before a pile is driven or a steel girder is erected. This visualization can identify potential design conflicts early in the process and allow designers to discover efficiencies that can help reduce cost and improve construction scheduling.

The BIM 3D design model also helps to quantify and organize the materials needed for large projects. How many piles will we need in this location? How long is this section of road deck? These calculations could be made through a more traditional design process, but they are more quickly solved and visually enhanced through 3D modeling.

BIM also integrates all environmental details associated with the structure, such as the local geography and natural lighting.

BIM allows designers and constructors to organize an enormous amount of data and precisely manage design and construction, including scheduling and tracking of each element of the bridge’s construction progress. By integrating building materials and the work of design specialists from across the country, BIM maximizes efficiencies throughout the construction process. For example, Welsbach Electric Corp. is currently using the 3D model to guide the installation of the bridge’s electrical wiring, which must be coordinated with the production of the crossing’s huge steel girders.

BIM technology also is used by designers and engineers to ensure that construction proceeds in strict accordance with design plans, serving as a visual log book. To date, engineers have already matched and linked literally millions of documents and photos to different parts of the virtual bridge. This highly efficient record keeping, gathered in a single source with no duplication, is proving to be an invaluable resource for both TZC and the Thruway Authority.

BIM will continue to serve the Thruway after the bridge is completed. Future maintenance teams will need to quickly access and analyze the data that has been collected in the BIM database. Utilizing video game-based technology, HDR developed a user-friendly viewer program that displays the bridge model in a realistic and interactive virtual manner.

Each of the approximately 500,000 bridge elements can be viewed with links to pertinent design and maintenance information. Maintenance crews will be able to view the model from mobile devices, laptops or desktop computers, allowing them to see every piece of the bridge at every possible angle.

“While the BIM model certainly enhances design and construction, the 3D technology will also be invaluable to Thruway engineers in the planning and execution of its maintenance program for the New NY Bridge,” said Larry Soeller, a Thruway Authority senior highway maintenance engineer.

BIM technology is helping the project team handle an astonishing amount of information with the utmost efficiency, honing terabytes of data into an enormously useful tool. Employing BIM modeling on the project is not only helping deliver the new crossing as efficiently as possible, it is also advancing technology that will help build and maintain new bridges, highways, railroads and other infrastructure facilities in the years to come.

Learn more about how the team is building the new span. Visit every week to stay informed and sign up for project updates.