In a world that needs more infrastructure built to meet the challenges of the 21st century, demands on the construction industry are growing. Customer expectations of more complex, sustainable builds on tight timelines can require feats of technological innovation as daunting as the projects themselves. Such was the case in southern Norway, where jagged glaciers and astonishingly-deep fjords deliver the extreme topography that attracts visitors to the small coastal communities—towns that in this new millennium remain difficult to reach by car.
5 tunnels, 47 structures, and the world's largest cantilever bridge
The existing highway is E39, 700 miles of winding road that takes 21 hours and seven ferry rides to traverse. To modernize just a 15-mile stretch from Kristiansand to Mandal, Norway is investing $490 million for a more direct roadway that includes five tunnels, 47 structures, and the world’s largest balanced cantilever bridge. Upping the stakes further, the road authority attached ambitious goals to this endeavor: reduce the project’s carbon emissions by 20%, collaborate without paper, and do it all in four years. Norconsult accepted the challenge but needed to create an entirely new way to design and build to meet the ambitious project goals.
“There were a lot of demands from the client that could not be met using existing tools,” said Marius Jablonskis, Technology Manager at Norconsult. “The only way to fulfill the demands was strategic cross-industry collaboration between designers, contractors and software developers.”
“The only way to fulfill the demands was strategic cross-industry collaboration between designers, contractors and software developers.”
That's where the Autodesk Forge platform came in. Norconsult used Forge to extend the capabilities of its own collaboration platform. It used Navisworks to aggregate more than 800 building information models (BIM) and Forge to build a single source of truth that connected all 2,000 collaborators—not through cumbersome emails and file transfers, but through a simple web browser.
This custom solution needed to meet the needs of every stakeholder, ensuring the right details reached the right people, from field workers in tunnels to office staff at desks to the customer in Oslo. The result was the centralization of 300,000 documents in a cloud-based common data environment that reduced traditional drawings by 95% and achieved the customer’s digitalization demands.
“Forge provides us with a foundation,” said Frode Tørresdal, Forge Development Lead at Norconsult, “that enables the granular, real-time data generation and exchange that’s needed to tear down industry silos and truly integrate teams.”
“Forge provides us with a foundation that enables the granular, real-time data generation and exchange that’s needed to tear down industry silos and truly integrate teams.”
Rising pressures, long-standing challenges require process optimization
The Norwegian road authority’s ambitious project goals are representative of larger forces putting pressure on the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Increasingly, governments are requiring digital project delivery with standards that can only be met when data is open and connected. Meanwhile, both public and private sector customers are raising their expectations for sustainable outcomes. Layer on the trends of urbanization, aging infrastructure, and a diminishing workforce, and quickly it becomes apparent that the industry must build differently.
Consider what’s needed to meet the demand for transportation networks alone. The world needs to build enough roads, highways, and rail to circle the earth 30 times.
“To address this demand, we need to optimize the way we plan, design, build and ultimately operate our infrastructure,” said Theo Agelopoulos, Vice President – AutoCAD & AEC Design Strategy. “We need better processes, and we need to better leverage insights across multiple data sources. That’s how we gain benefits all the way through the infrastructure lifecycle.”
When processes are optimized, firms can overcome long-standing industry challenges. Today, the industry spends 35% of its time on non-optimal activities like tracking down project data, fixing mistakes, and resolving conflicts. Those are exactly the types of productivity drains that Norconsult is solving for.
Innovation mindset combined with connected data deliver superior outcomes
Remember that four-year timeline for the E39 project? Norconsult tackled that challenge by designing and building in parallel. Its design team used Dynamo to automate the modeling and analysis of complex geometry in Revit, enabling it to deliver initial designs around 70% faster.
Those initial designs are far from the final product, so the common data environment proved its value here too. When the inevitable design change occurred, around 70% of the updates would populate automatically, speeding reviews and reducing errors—productivity gains that gave Norconsult more time to unleash its talent on bigger challenges, like meeting that 20% sustainability goal.
By using generative design in Revit, Norconsult found strategies to reduce the amount of concrete used on the Trysfjord Bridge, a 260-meter span that stretches the bounds of what’s possible. The project achieved a 15% reduction in carbon emissions on that bridge alone. What’s more: Trysfjord opened in December 2021—a full six months ahead of schedule.
“The client demands seemed impossible at first,” said Jablonskis. “But we had support from Autodesk and a flexible platform to create a solution to meet our specific needs, and that made all the difference.”
A future where impossible outcomes are made possible.
Norconsult achieved better outcomes through a custom platform solution that connected teams in a unified environment, but the innovation journey is far from over. Its leaders envision harnessing the power of real-time sensor data and machine learning to create a “self-learning ecosystem” that drives industry transformation in the future. A future where technology, processes, and people all converge into an integrated system that unlocks insights and accelerates new ways of making. A future where impossible outcomes are made possible.