3D design revolutionises urban water drainage

3D design and animations are increasingly used to secure an overview and make decisions on challenging construction projects. In the long term, excavators will work directly on the basis of a 3D model, says Jacob Gøtterup, an engineer with COWI's department of Water and Nature.


What to do when you are trying to convince the relevant municipal officials that it is necessary to close off a central intersection for an entire weekend because you have to move a wastewater pipe?

3D animations are used to show the complexity of buried pipes and cables, which allows all parties around the table to quickly familiarise themselves with the challenges of future excavation works.

Engineer Jacob Gøtterup provides consultancy on utility relocation in COWI Water and Nature.

"3D animations are a huge advantage when we're called to explain the task at hand," says Gøtterup.

Jacob Gøtterup is a BSc in Civil Engineering from Aarhus University, School of Engineering, and an MSc in Environmental Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark. He joined COWI in 2010 and his primary job is to advice customers about utility relocations.

In this field, 3D design and animations have proven a highly valuable tool.

User-friendly tool

Gøtterup mentions a recent example from Odense where a tramway is being established.

To make room for the tramway, wastewater pipes under a central intersection have to be relocated, and to make room for the excavation works, the contractor and the two COWI consulting engineers apply for the municipality's permission to close off the intersection for two weekends.

"The municipality did not want to close off the intersection for that long since it would cause traffic problems. But 3D animations really made it clear to everyone what myriads of water, sewer and district heating pipes etc. lie hidden underground. Regardless of their professional background, everyone around the table was able to appreciate and understand the task at hand," says Gøtterup.

The municipality grants permission to close off the intersection.

Gøtterup explains that 3D design is also outstanding when it comes to identifying, in advance, any complications that could emerge during excavation works.

"When you're planning high-complexity excavation works, like with Odense Tramway, 3D animations let you know what critical crossings exist underground. That makes it easier for you, in cooperation with other utility owners, be they the district heating provider or TDC, to decide which pipes have to be relocated and which can stay," he says.

Machines are fed 3D

The potential for 3D on construction projects will truly be realised when all contracting machinery are able to work directly from information included in the models, emphasises Gøtterup.

"In the future, we will be able to create a 3D model of a specific excavation and then feed a data file to the excavator. Then, the machine does all the digging according to the instructions in the animations. That will reduce excavation hours, the number of errors and, in turn, the number of site workers. It will save both time and money," he says.

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COWI employee Søren Kragh Pedersen

Søren Kragh Pedersen
Head of Group PA & PR
Communication, Denmark

Tel: +45 2025 7018