Are visualization strategies worth it?

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Transportation

3D rendering of city infrastructureAre you bored with your engineering drawings? Have you attended too many public involvement meetings where everyone is just grimacing at your plans, not really understanding what you’re talking about? Are you an artist trapped in an engineer’s body? Do you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is priceless? (Not to mention the value of a live cube.)

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then why not go with a picture, video or even live cube for your next public engagement?

All too often I have seen frustrated and confused attendees meander around a public involvement setting and wished that I had been able to convince the client to bring renderings, video or a live cube . But historically, these things were very time-consuming, and thus, costly. Challenges I’ve heard are, “Does it really help a contractor build the project?” Or “Where is the return on investment?” Or simply, “No, we don’t need that.”

Fortunately, with our transportation industry’s evolution into 3D modeling, and provided that the construction design has already been successfully designed and modeled in 3D, turning our designs into renderings, videos and live cubes has become much simpler (and fun) to do. And with simplicity comes cost savings. What may have taken weeks to create several years ago can now be produced in a day’s time or less. At Mead & Hunt, we’re utilizing a number of Bentley Systems’ programs, including OpenRoads ConceptStation, OpenRoads Designer and LumenRT Designer, to bring our designs to life.

3D rendering of roundabout with vehiclesFor example, we’ve used renderings, videos and live cubes to enhance public involvement on roundabout projects. While some people are extremely accustomed to traversing roundabouts, others (like some of my neighbors) aren’t very experienced with them, so they aren’t quite sold on them yet. Your city may have dozens of roundabouts that you use every day, but the couple standing in front of you may have never seen one and is concerned that they’re going to lose their land or won’t be able to get their combine harvester through it. Renderings, videos and live cubes can really go a long way in helping people see what’s really going to happen with a project. LumenRT Designer even allows us to produce video and live cubes with all sorts of vehicles, pedestrians and imported traffic simulations to show how everything will truly flow.

Are these capabilities the greatest thing since sliced bread? Maybe not. But they’re pretty great when you can show someone who’s worried about losing her home that she’s lived in for 60 years that not only will she be able to keep her home, but what the view from her porch will look like!

Dan Barnhart

About the Author

Dan Barnhart, P.E.’s interest in road design began as a youngster in a sandbox. Now, he uses the latest 3D technologies and innovations to design roadways that balance safety, efficiency, and sustainability for all travelers. He loves finding solutions to increase design efficiency – reducing tasks that have historically taken months to complete to weeks, days, hours, or even minutes and then sharing that knowledge with others. Throughout his 25-year career he’s seen improvements in design software and technology that have made these improvements a reality – which allow him to get home to enjoy time with his family and friends.

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