Like Human, Like City

Cities are like the human body: they grow, they age and if not taken care of, they cannot properly function. This especially holds true for densely populated urban areas. Attention to detail in the infrastructure is vital to their proper functionality. The more that we neglect the infrastructure of these fast-growing cities, the more the city begins to fall apart.

We need to keep our cities just as healthy as our bodies!

A city in poor conditions detracts both visitors and residents. No one wants to drive through a pot-hole filled street, ruining their vehicle. No one wants to walk on a sidewalk threatened by sink-holes that may cause them serious bodily injury. Because of this, city residents and visitors may move or stay away from the city. This can cause economic ruin for the city, among other issues. These scenarios are very real problems that occur when the infrastructure is not properly maintained. However, it’s not too late to solve this age-old problem. It’s time to take control of our city by investing in infrastructure.

Transitioning to sustainable urban infrastructure is the most fundamental component to achieving the dual challenge of maintaining a sustainable development and promoting long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies to cope with increased traffic. This will require a thoughtful approach by our city leaders and managers. Urban renewal is a promise that needs to be kept for the sake of the city residents and its guests; not to mention the economic survival within city limits.

We need to keep thinking “city!”

Although our cities continue to develop they don’t always upgrade the infrastructure. The old, outdated infrastructure in the streets of our cities conduce conditions like seeing old wounds appear unexpectedly.

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What’s the problem, you ask? Maintaining Infrastructure!

Maintaining infrastructure, as we said, is truly an age-old issue. Streets are critical transportation conduits; so, their maintenance and improvement will always be a revolving challenge. Challenges of improvement include: time constraints, costs, data management, communication and of course: thinking outside of the box. These challenges put pressure on city administrations and continues to reflect the impact of everyone who uses them. City administrations must realize – and fast – that city infrastructure problems can snowball into much bigger issues. City leaders must move past critical issues or else they will be at risk to make their efforts useless for the implication of a successful street maintenance program.

Let’s put the nominal issues aside and invest in our streets now before it’s too late!

Issues related to unsuccessful maintenance programs are multiple but in this article, we will focus on the two major problems: underfunding and utility systems.

Chronic Underfunding of Road Maintenance

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Don’t neglect our streets!

By neglecting street maintenance programs, repairing the roads will end up costing more than the allocated budgets, resulting in chronic underfunding for such reparations. City residents and visitors will see the cracks and other defects of streets that are part of their community which can lead to poor reputation and a decline in the overall city economy. This problem seriously undermines the credibility of city leaders, road transport and services, creating major inconveniences for anyone enjoying the city.

Nobody likes cracked roads, potholes or even sinkholes.

Utilities

Sometimes it’s what’s on the inside that counts” Yes. Our utility systems!

We all know that under the streets are pipelines. These pipelines act like the “circulatory system” of the city. Ignoring these networks can lead to serious accidents, major losses, interruptions in the services they provide, and extreme discomfort within the city. City administrations need to make maintenance and development programs of all networks a priority to consider the further development of communities and the benefits from that. Because these networks are old, outdated and create many problems, it is imperative to protect the utilities and install a program where the streets and applicable systems are repaired to high quality conditions.

Old City = More Problems

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We can’t lose sight of the bigger picture!

Often, street maintenance or upgrading programs do not consider underground networks. Building companies accept street repair and maintenance contracts that are unrelated to the underground networks or problems connected with them. When starting maintenance programs, construction companies use heavy equipment that induce shocks and extra vibrations that are much higher than normal. Usually, unforeseen problems arise by the advanced state of degradation or damage to these utility networks from the careless construction operations.

Wait: who is paying for all these repairs?

These repairs are more than just their contract value.

We need reality. Most of the rehabilitation and maintenance programs for the streets are multiannual and often do not consider the realities of the streets and related conditions. These programs are usually created on a fixed financial skeleton.

For multi-year projects, engineers are keen to simplify their projections and streamline goals due to the repetition of the adopted solutions. The technical projects are typically in 2D design. This 2D design has very little information about the underground networks that could be effected by the reparation plans. These designs work only on the surface with solutions that typically only involve the road side. The surveys are strictly based upon the street surfaces. Authorities do not give details about underground networks because of situations that may occur or for hidden reasons, but mostly due to the cost. A hidden problem: a hidden priority.  

Companies that contract maintenance projects to increase efficiency and lower construction costs are “required” to use large oversized machines that increase discomfort to residents and can cause serious damage to underground networks. All parties involved in repair and maintenance projects need to understand and adopt strategies that correspond to the field situations to ensure that not only the roads are taken care of, but also the underground utilities.

The aim of this strategy is to establish following relationships: (1) a long term monitoring program of rehabilitation and maintenance projects, (2) strengthening the future decision-making process and (3) consulting an open data source where administrators have a decisive knowledge and participation.

The Solution: Street-Maintenance Database and Simulation

A long-term strategy is within reach!

The strategy can be made possible if a street database based on performance models of the repair and maintenance projects is created. The performance model is created based on the age of the pavement and the pavement’s conditions, traffic conditions, and history of maintenance and improvement work. Pavement condition should be evaluated based on a field survey. The goal of maintenance is just to preserve the asset, not necessarily to upgrade it. Unlike major road work projects, maintenance must be done regularly. It includes minor repairs and improvements to eliminate the cause of defects and to avoid excessive repetition of maintenance efforts. This street database will facilitate everyone’s access as an open data source where all parties involved can view and interact with the current conditions. So, with the help of technology and software solutions; a more complex model can be created.

Technology is our friend!

Imagine a “digital model” where you can click on any component for a three-dimensional blueprint in terms of a construction project to access that component’s source of supply, pricing, maintenance and installation instructions, warranty, catalog cut sheet, and other pertinent technical data. The construction of these so-called “digital models” enables one to visualize the entire duration of a series of events and is being used by a variety of project participants from designers to contractors. Construction sequences can be simulated to facilitate quick and effective decision-making by the contractor, design team, and component owner. Some of the key attributes associated with these models will improve site planning by enabling “what if” scenarios to test and improve different schemes.

Because street Maintenance Programs are based on pavement age and pavement conditions, traffic conditions, history of maintenance and improvement work, one can use the technical solution adopted based on the parameters listed earlier. This way you can apply different “maintenance” solutions on different streets in the same city.

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In the figure presented above, we see can see several different technical solutions that can be taken over by several construction companies. Different technical solutions involve different projects and procedures. Most of the technical projects are in 2D design. Field surveys are in 2D. In most cases maintenance projects are obsessively repetitive (even on the same streets). The disadvantage of these 2D projects is major. A typical surveyor’s output would be a 2D plan in CAD but in this “digital model” we are outputting 3D models with intelligent objects. The data software will record what a certain object is, its dimensions, what it’s made of, and there may be an image of it as well. It is a lot more information and more technologically advanced which will help create more advanced, time and money saving solutions.

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The 3D model with intelligent objects can be interactive and can be viewed from multiple perspectives. Check out the figure above to see a 3D digitization model from the point of view of the underground networks.

Data Saves the City!

We can conclude that with as much data as possible and with today’s technology there allows an opportunity for great mobility by combining information and technology to create a digital representation of a construction project. Having all the design models, history of maintenance, integrated into one centralized set of linked databases allows us to create detailed, both still and moving, visualizations of specific elements of the project – We are able to bring to life elements of the project years before work to construct them actually begins or before repairs are even needed on existing infrastructure.

With this is a dynamic model, any change to a 3D element is instantly reflected in the views the user selects. Because it is a virtual model, you can add or update data to help describe the object, including links to images, product catalogues and manufacturing websites.

As a construction company, you can do clash detection, programming, and planning, as well as cost analysis for variations and rectification works.

Change is for the Best

Change can be scary, but it does not have to be.

Although saving a city by its infrastructure may sound like daunting and difficult task, by creating a system based on building information modeling (BIM) we can make use of the great technology we have to organize the problem and project the solutions. By becoming organized in our approach, we can cut costs, time and have a better grasp on the data at hand to help produce the best solutions and quickly. BIM can also help inform our leaders and decision makers to ensure that urban infrastructure becomes a major priority, without being a major headache.

By accessing this technology and making use of a fantastic open source solution, hopefully will translate into better transportation systems, better quality roads and sidewalks, improved maintenance repair and predictive solutions, and of course bring people into the city to stay and enjoy so they will not only spend their money in the city but perhaps move, live and economically prosper. When the citizens of our city are prosperous, they will be spending money and the entire city will reap the rewards. However, we must start at the beginning and provide the maintained infrastructure and utilities to give our citizens the environment to strive and also give incentive for visitors to come and enjoy our city.

BIM For Life

Embrace the change!

It’s time to embrace that change in the name of urban infrastructure. BIM will ensure that every team member of each and every city project will be “in the know” and it will also ensure that all t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. BIM truly takes the “work” out of team work and allows for the information to be able to be spread easily and quickly for the end goal of helping our city to be achieved much quicker. We all know that saying “work smarter, not harder.” It’s time to put that to work by creating the digital open source BIM system to help our urban cities stay afloat and look fabulous easily, cheaply, quickly and beautifully! Give our cities some life: one urban development at a time by choosing BIM open source systems. Generations will benefit and this is only the beginning.

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