Learn about trends in digital transformation and how they affect the engineering and construction industry.
It all began with a pilot for a possible first application, on the VIKTOR platform, back in 2021 for underwater concrete floors. This application turned out to be the first of many more to come. Soon, other tools for designing submersible tunnels, noise barriers, underpasses, and more followed. Without comprehensive programming experience, people at Arcadis started developing tools for themselves and their colleagues. Because Arcadis is an international company that works in many countries the aim is to use tooling on platforms all over the world. The VIKTOR platform is one way to realize this.
In this article, we will discuss the first developed tool which by now has been used on several projects. One of those cases is a large underpass and aqueduct in the N247 highway in Broek en Waterland, commissioned by Province of North-Holland.
© Arcadis Architecten (Tom Kramer) commissioned by Province of North-Holland.
Why realizing this tool on the VIKTOR platform? For the design of underwater concrete floors, Arcadis always used to work with validated Excel sheets and off-shelf programs to perform calculations. To gather all necessary data to fill such a sheet, a lot of coordination between different divisions is required. This takes up quite a lot of time and is ultimately only good for the calculation of a specific design in one specific situation. That's why Arcadis started looking for a better way to automate this, by adding an extra dimension to the calculations that allowed them to quickly play around with parameters in search for the (cost) optimal design which fulfills the requirements and is cost effective.
So, that's what they did by building a VIKTOR application around the validated Excel sheet. Now they were able to try different input parameters and swiftly asses how these parameters affect their design. To take it a step further, they also decided to link other processes into the application. Through an integration with Deltares’ D-Sheetpiling and D-Foundations, it became possible to automatically calculate tensile piles and sheet piles as part of the design. Additionally, a module was built to upload CPTs, enabling automated analysis of soil layers. Gradually, their tool for under water concrete floors got transformed into an application to calculate the entire construction pit. The application was finalized by adding a cost estimate based upon the generated design.
“The tool was first created for under water concrete calculations but in the end, it became a total construction pit design-tool. We can now fully calculate the underwater concrete, the pile foundations, and the sheet piles of the construction pit itself.” – Mark van Esseveld, Project Manager at Arcadis
By extracting information from D-Sheetpiling to an Excel file, the tool can read all interaction forces that are transferred from one object to another. The pile reactions are extracted from Excel and sent to D-Foundations, where they're processed and returned as graphical visualizations in the tool's results section. Following the brute force tactic, this process is repeated numerous of times to generate many different design options.
“As an engineer, you use a lot of programs; for concrete constructions, sheet pile constructions, and geotechnical constructions. These often need to interact with each other. It’s great if you are somehow able to automate this. VIKTOR is a great way to enable these programs to communicate with each other and take out a lot of error-prone parts.” – Peter Konijnenbelt, Senior Designer at Arcadis
Excavation results from D-Sheetpiling
Optimal pile tip levels from D-Foundations
Usually, costs are determined based on the calculated construction. For this tool, however, a cost component was added; the construction is automatically calculated but at the same time also optimized based on cost parameters, like the amount of steel and installation costs. In the end, each design gets matched with a price tag based on the input parameters. Then, either Arcadis or a client can choose a design based on price per square meter construction pit, as can be seen in the image below.
Presentation of the optimization results via a parallel coordinates plot
Alternative representation of the optimization results via a contour plot
“We can basically say: “We can provide the client a full and transparent insight in a valid design spectrum given a preset range for several parameters”. Based upon this insight, a preferred design (e.g. cost/preferred dimensions) can be selected. Thus, the basis for the design of a construction pit can be determined for any given № of cross sections” – Mark van Esseveld, Project Manager at Arcadis
Regarding the question about the most significant benefit of their tool, Arcadis agrees on the improved work-efficiency. Mark: “… and with that we can offer good work for a good price, which is a big advantage for our client. We can consider the design spectrum in higher detail in less time, which means we can do more at the same cost whilst the design is being optimized simultaneously”.
Where Arcadis first needed two colleagues – a designer and geotechnical engineer – to work on a project, it's now possible for one colleague to calculate the entire construction pit in much less time. Only some basic Geotechnical and structural knowledge is required here. Of course, specialists are involved to check the calculated results, but less time is needed because steps are automated. All steps of the process are integrated in one system with multiple colleagues, meaning all in- and output is programmed and runs smoothly. Intermediate steps are taken out of the equation (i.e. transfer of data), saving time and reducing chance of errors.
“The user-friendliness in the design process through which the designer or geotechnical engineer is guided makes it a lot easier for them to do their job.” – Mark van Esseveld, Project Manager at Arcadis
With a broad range of features, the construction pit tool is widely used within Arcadis. For example, by both the Construction and Geotechnics divisions, who use the tool to specify project details. And when it comes to pricing, the Costs division gets involved too. Thanks to the user-friendly and intuitive interface, using the tool is no problem for non-experts.
“The VIKTOR platform is very user-friendly for colleagues who are less committed to programming, scripting, coding, all that stuff. They simply use the tools and are assisted in an intuitive manner. This characterizes itself through a good process flow that guides users through the design steps. Another big benefit is the calculation output being depicted and visualized very clear and efficiently. The calculations speed also rises significantly, the quality increases, and generation of calculation reports becomes easier.” – Mark van Esseveld, Project Manager at Arcadis
Besides the divisions that already worked with the tool, other parts of the organization are affected by it as well. For example, a lot of code is currently available from all the projects colleagues at Arcadis have been working on, which can be reutilized to build new applications in the future.
“We are composing a beautiful code library that makes it more profitable to create apps for specific projects later on.” – Peter Konijnenbelt, Senior Designer at Arcadis
An example of such a spin-off application is the construction pit tool used in the Buildings and Water division, inspired by the construction pit tool from this article. Where the original tool was created for tunnels and underpasses, this one is used for buildings. All by simply altering some parts of the code!