How Visualizations and 3D Animations Simplify Complexities and Improve Safety Outcomes for Infrastructure Projects

Technically accurate visualizations and 3D animations offer an array of applications and benefits for infrastructure projects. From permit approvals and pre-construction planning, through to ongoing asset management, 3D animations deliver previously unattainable technical storytelling capabilities.

Major transport and infrastructure projects tend to be characterised by time delays, materials waste and cost overruns. The financial burden of these inefficiencies is generally borne by asset owners, particularly government agencies.

Traditionally, major transport and infrastructure projects employed project management tools like Gantt Charts to illustrate construction sequences. However, these traditional tools are complicated, disorganized, and overwhelming—their inefficiencies reduce collaboration and stakeholder management, particularly during the construction process.

The infrastructure industry is rapidly evolving, with visualizations becoming the norm. Technologies like 3D animations have enabled contractors and government agencies to virtually illustrate and analyze a building or facility in its conceptual design stage even before construction even begins.

Industrial visualizations offer a major step-change in how infrastructure assets can be built, operated and maintained. They deliver real-time, realistic and technically accurate representations of complex assets, resulting in increased levels of communication, clarity and engagement for all stakeholders. Visualizations can help engineers and asset owners predict future performance, plan maintenance and shut downs, improve safety, expedite approvals and augment marketing activities.

Project Planning and Permitting

3D animations can be a vital tool in visualizing and testing development proposals for major infrastructure projects. Visualizations can quickly and easily communicate data such as height, setback, building envelope, shadows, and sight lines. It can illustrate a development’s projected effect on the surrounding area, incorporate planning overlays, and help assess alternative sites and elevations. The succinct, effective illustration of complex details such as these can be essential in obtaining building permits, for project reporting, and regulatory briefings.

Local Community Engagement

Infrastructure projects can have huge impacts on local communities, making the social licence to operate vital. Ineffective stakeholder engagement can severely damage the reputation of a government or a company and cause huge delays, with price tags in the millions of dollars.

3D animations that clearly articulate factors such as environmental and social impact, pollution and waste mitigation strategies, construction timelines, and local traffic management plans can be a highly effective way to communicate complex information to the local community. For the construction of assets like pedestrian, rail and road bridges, new train stations and level crossing, or major roads and rail tunnels, local communities must be consulted and communicated with. Open and transparent communication with the local community from the planning phase, right throughout the construction process, is essential.

In the case of infrastructure that requires buy-in from the local community, 3D animations and renderings enable people to see the space from every possible angle, get a feel for size and layout, and view lifelike details like light and shadows. This helps people connect with a development before it is even built, facilitating tacit approval.

Sales and Marketing

Photorealistic renderings enable architects and engineers to explore, validate and communicate designs to clients. Architects can win more competitive bids by incorporating 3D renderings, flythroughs and walkthroughs in their marketing presentations. Contractors can also win more bids by incorporating construction sequencing animations into their tender documentation. Plus, these animations can be used on websites, in social media marketing, and at trade shows.

Construction Sequencing

By synthesizing the complex data across the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing disciplines, a 3D animation can be used for construction sequencing. Visualizations can be used to confirm factors like steelwork locations, clearances required, plant and equipment movements, crane schedules, clear work areas, on-site material storage, installation and erection timeframes, and more.

Construction sequencing can identify potential construction issues, on-site clashes, and where material and labor shortages could be encountered. Based on this, designs and schedules can be revised to resolve issues prior to the commencement of construction. This facilitates on-time delivery of projects and—ultimately—cost savings.

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Maintenance and Shut Downs

3D animations can be generated to outline ongoing asset management and maintenance protocols to help reduce schedule slippage, mitigate safety risks, and alleviate economic concerns.

A 3D animation can communicate what is happening, the process involved, and likely risks quickly and accurately—telling the shutdown story via an easily digestible, high level configuration. It can be used to illustrate traffic management, suggest detours if major bridges or tunnels need to be shut down, and estimate resultant traffic patterns in nearby areas.

Animations can be created for the workforce that contain detailed information, outlining step-by-step how the maintenance works need to be executed.

Education and Training

In the infrastructure sector, staff are at risk of exposure to dangerous situations. 3D animations can help mitigate these risks. Animations are imbued with capabilities that ‘normal’ videos simply do not possess. They can zoom in to a microscopic level, display the internal workings of machinery that are not visible to the naked eye, and depict processes that might be too dangerous to film with a camera. All of this functionality can help staff better understand construction and maintenance procedures, improving site safety.

Visualizations can even be used to replicate dangerous scenarios, such as a fire at a construction site. This animation could describe processes for preventing injury to staff, extinguishing the fire and ensuring the site is safe for work.

By simplifying complex stories for a wide variety of stakeholders, visualization affords the infrastructure sector a whole host of benefits.