After months of negotiations, compromises, and concessions between the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate, and the White House, last November President Biden finally signed his landmark Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. The passed infrastructure bill arrives as refreshing and optimistic news to state and local government officials who have been struggling to maintain their crumbling critical infrastructure.
It is no secret that America’s infrastructure is in dire need of investment and repair, showing little to no progress from year-to-year as state and local governments struggle to maintain adequate bridges, roadways, public transport, and utilities for their constituents. In fact, in 2021 the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S.’ infrastructure a C- rating, which was the first time in 20 years that the nation received any grade above a D.
Though the latest grade from the ASCE may show faint signs that progress is being made, the federal infrastructure investment gap has grown from $2.1 trillion to $2.59 trillion over the last decade. Last year, alone, a quarter of American cities reported that they experienced fewer infrastructure upgrades, with insufficient funding cited as the primary cause.
The passing of last November’s bill will drive a renewed nationwide focus on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. In fact, state and local governments all over the country are beginning to evaluate and identify existing and shelved critical system projects that can now be revamped or restarted.
“By modernizing AEC processes and workflows, valuable time and money that were previously wasted on tedious, manual calculations and avoidable change orders are now back in the hands of project stakeholders, allowing them to turn their focus to more critical aspects of a project.”
During this period of project evaluation and prioritization, government agencies must also begin evaluating and considering the role modernized and digital processes are playing within the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached American shores, AEC professionals from both public and private sectors were forced to shift to digitized processes and workflows seemingly overnight. And though the transition was abrupt and was accompanied by a learning curve among the workforce, AEC teams across the country immediately experienced the transformative benefits that digitization provided to their projects.
With federal funding on its way, state and local government officials are being presented with a prime opportunity to digitally transform how they execute AEC projects, ushering in a new era of streamlined workflows that will improve efficiency, deliver projects faster, and foster project sustainability from pre-construction to long after the asset is handed over.
In their newly released white paper, “Infrastructure Plan Offers Historic Opportunity to Future-proof Critical Systems,” Autodesk and DLT examine how state and local governments can take advantage of these modern IT and digitization processes that will speed and improve infrastructure project construction, and allow for better infrastructure maintenance and management into the future.
Here are three key roles digitization will play in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure:
Single source of truth for project data
Modernizing and digitizing AEC workflows will enable seamless collaboration among teams across all project disciplines, allowing every stakeholder to view and work off the exact same project information and data in real-time. This is made possible through building information modeling (BIM), which has evolved into an information methodology for design, build, and management of construction projects and assets. BIM solutions and tools facilitate 3D model-based processes that encompass technology, standards, skills development, and project management.
“The passing of last November’s bill will drive a renewed nationwide focus on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. In fact, state and local governments all over the country are beginning to evaluate and identify existing and shelved critical system projects that can now be revamped or restarted.”
3D modeling also results in more accurate planning and fewer miscalculations. Before the modernization of AEC processes and workflows, construction projects were plagued by each project discipline working off outdated information and siloed data, which would inevitably lead to costly change orders, supply chain disruptions, missed benchmarks, and low project productivity. By adopting BIM, government agencies are able to deploy collaborative, cloud-computing workflows that are streamlined across all multidisciplinary teams and stakeholders.
Deadlines met, money saved
In the past, AEC methodologies were notoriously time-consuming and expensive. For example, if an AEC team member needed to update one parameter of a construction project, that single adjustment would require manual recalculations across each siloed AEC system in order to accurately reflect the change. These manual calculations eventually would lead to higher margins of error, pushed back deadlines, and surprise costs to budgets.
In fact, ten to fifteen percent of construction budgets are set aside for these pricey change orders, amounting to millions of dollars of unnecessary spending on large infrastructure projects. With a growing infrastructure investment gap that local government taxes are struggling to bridge, every taxpayer dollar counts.
Revisiting the example above, if that same team member had been working on a cloud-based, common data platform (CDP), the recalculations from that one adjustment would be reflected automatically and instantaneously, for all other project team members to view in real-time. By modernizing AEC processes and workflows, valuable time and money that were previously wasted on tedious, manual calculations and avoidable change orders are now back in the hands of project stakeholders, allowing them to turn their focus to more critical aspects of a project.
“With federal funding on its way, state and local government officials are being presented with a prime opportunity to digitally transform how they execute AEC projects, ushering in a new era of streamlined workflows that will improve efficiency, deliver projects faster, and foster project sustainability from pre-construction to long after the asset is handed over.”
Modernizing and digitizing AEC workflows have proven to be budget-friendly while also delivering project benchmarks on time. And these benefits aren’t limited to just the design and building phases of an asset’s lifecycle. AEC digital transformation has completely innovated the lifetime management of project deliverables, allowing owner-operators to identify and resolve asset issues faster and cheaper than ever before.
Building for a sustainable future
One of the main goals of the bipartisan infrastructure bill is to bolster resiliency against the rising threat of climate change and the risks it poses to U.S. critical systems and infrastructure. AEC digitization is playing a pivotal role by supporting state and local governments to build more sustainable structures through BIM and advanced 3D technology.
By integrating Geographic Information System (GIS) software with BIM tools and solutions, AEC teams members, stakeholders, and owner-operators can visualize future projects with virtual reality (VR) technology, including visualizing how potential climate events will affect infrastructure operation in the future.
When state and local government officials, AEC project firms, and owner-operators have this information upfront before breaking ground, they are better prepared to make informed decisions that will benefit the longevity and operation of their asset into the future, no matter what climate events they may face.
To learn more about the role AEC digitization will play in rebuilding American infrastructure, download Autodesk’s “Infrastructure Plan Offers Historic Opportunity to Future-proof Critical Systems” white paper HERE.