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Jack's blog: Building on brownfield needs a radical approach

The recent report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) suggests that three million new homes will have to be built on Green Belt land. However, this doesn't mean that the spotlight is moving away from brownfield development.

Jack Strongitharm is Autodesk Civil 3D's application engineer

The regeneration of industrial wasteland and other inner city sites looks set to continue at least for the next decade – but as any engineer or builder who has worked on these projects knows, they are never straightforward. They certainly bring in plenty of work for the civil engineering community, but with this comes the risk of the unknown – what does lie below the surface? – and the pressure to make the land safe and ready for building within strict time deadlines.

Often the land for development is on the site of a disused quarry or mines. Also, the current trend is to temper the impact of thousands of houses with landscaped areas of natural beauty.

As a result, the cost and time taken on earthworks can be major. The industry needs all the help it can get in streamlining workflows and enhancing accuracy.

Often what is needed is a software solution that minimises volume calculations, but also combines this with a roads package. Choosing software that creates a dynamic model which is also linked to the data behind it can address this problem.

There are, of course, a range of solutions on the market that calculate earth volumes. However, using a dynamic model which updates itself everytime a change is made is perhaps the most simple, fast and accurate way. It also means that precise engineering costings are available very early on in the process – without the need to make assumptions and estimates.

For example, Wigan Council has a variety of design software, but Chris Wilson, assistant engineer in the environmental services department, recently went on the lookout for a product which would be versatile, would enable him to design in 3D and would be quick and easy to learn. Consequently, he has been using AutoCAD Civil 3D to help enable the council’s estates department to get the best price for a brownfield site it is selling.

"Civil 3D was ideal for this," he says. "Its dynamic model greatly reduces the time it takes to evaluate multiple ideas. You begin by quickly laying out various alignment scenarios for a propsoed road. Alignments, profiles and the makeup of the corridor assemblies can then be refined until the best design proposal has been developed. With each change, all related objects and drawings update automatically."

This feature also makes the calculation of cut and fill volumes simple, fast and highly accurate. When changes are made in the design, these are updated too. So not only is it far quicker to calculate these in the first place, data can be easily provided for every design option, so adding even extra value.

With the continuing focus on the need for more affordable housing, the opportunities will be there for the taking – but only those who find radical ways to find new, more efficient ways of working will be able to profit and reap the rewards.

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