Last month, the leading AEC technology vendor, ALLPLAN, had its annual Infrastructure Day event, in which the company showcased the latest developments in its solutions and highlighted how they were being used in infrastructure projects around the world. The implementation examples were presented by the AEC firms executing these projects, and they provided the opportunity not just to learn more about ALLPLAN’s solutions but also to learn more about the projects themselves, especially in countries that are not typically on the public radar such as Croatia and Romania.
ALLPLAN itself is one of the AEC technology companies of the publicly traded Nemetschek group which is headquartered in Germany. For several years after Nemetschek was founded in 1963, Allplan was its flagship product, and it was only after Nemetschek expanded to acquire several additional AEC technology companies such as Graphisoft that Allplan was spun off into a separate company called ALLPLAN. (The name of the company is uppercase to distinguish it from the name of the product.) Given its long history in the AEC technology industry and its origins in Germany, Allplan was the dominant CAD solution used by AEC firms in Europe, and it continues to remain so (Figure 1). Along the way, it has evolved into a BIM solution, has expanded from buildings to infrastructure, and has extended its usage beyond Europe to several countries around the world. It is now one of the leading BIM solutions that are available to AEC firms designing buildings and infrastructure worldwide.
For its Infrastructure Day event, ALLPLAN focused primarily on its infrastructure design solutions, both for the product updates and the customer implementations.
In my “BIM for Infrastructure Software” article published last May which discussed the solutions that were available for model-based infrastructure design, ALLPLAN’s solutions featured prominently, including Allplan Civil Engineering and Allplan Bridge. Allplan Civil Engineering is a dedicated application built on top of Allplan that is specifically targeted towards civil projects, enabling concrete structures with complex geometries to be fully modeled, reinforced, and detailed. In contrast, Allplan Bridge is a “built from scratch” BIM application that was launched in 2018 specifically for bridge design. It is fully parametric, allowing a bridge to be quickly designed by creating key alignments and cross-sections, and enabling modifications to be easily made by tweaking the parameters (Figure 2). It also includes several time-saving smarts and automations to reduce mind-numbing tedious tasks and improve efficiency and accuracy, analysis and detailing capabilities that allow bridge engineers to do all their work within a single solution, along with the ability to pass the model to Allplan Engineering for further detailing and reinforcement if needed.
Key aspects of Allplan Bridge that were highlighted at the Infrastructure Day event included the automatic derivation of the analytical model from the geometrical model based on Allplan’s own analytical kernel (Figure 3); support for construction scheduling with the ability to define phases and tasks (Figure 4); a specialized modeling workflow for the design of precast girder bridges in which the geometry of the bridge is not governed directly by the geometry of the axis (see my review of Allplan 2022 for more details on this); and expanded compliance with bridge standards in more countries.
In addition to bridges, Allplan has now developed a dedicated parametric tool for road design as well. With this tool, the road model is generated from cross section profile definitions and any changes such as a modification to the road axis or a redefinition of the base terrain automatically recalculates and adjusts the road model (Figure 5). Additional capabilities include detailed terrain modeling with support for point clouds, creating templates to define the standard profile of the road body, automated model checking of the road design to detect geometrically faulty profiles or unfulfilled boundary conditions, the ability to also parametrically model utilities such as manholes and sewer and service lines as part of the road, and automatic creation of all drawings and reports that would be needed for the road construction (Figure 6).
Capabilities that are common to both the bridge and road design tools include the ability to export the model to Allplan Engineering for more detailed development if needed, as well as the ability to collaborate with larger design teams and exchange data using the cloud-based collaboration platform, Allplan Bimplus (Figure 7). In fact, Bimplus can also be used to work with both the road and bridge projects together by aligning their axes, as was demonstrated at the event.
And finally, ALLPLAN highlighted the developments it has made in visual scripting, which allow designers using its applications to create their own workflows and automate tasks to accelerate and streamline the design process (Figure 9). More details on this, along with other design automation capabilities in Allplan, were provided in the recent article, “Customizing Design Workflows.”
The second part of the ALLPLAN Infrastructure Day highlighted some of the infrastructure projects around the world that were being designed using the Allplan suite of solutions. Some of these have already been completed and are in operation, such as the Cetin Dam in southeastern Turkey by the firm, Su-Yapı Engineering & Consultancy (Figure 9). This project was of particular importance because the dam is the largest in Europe in terms of concrete volume and type (RCC, short for Roller Compacted Concrete). Allplan equipped the engineering firm to not only successfully execute this complex project, but also to complete it six months ahead of schedule. Allplan was used for the concept design and then the detailed design of the project, including modeling of the complex structure, visualization, and placing the reinforcement. Its BIM capabilities reduced revision times significantly, allowed the required drawings to be derived from the model, enabled complex correlations to be merged and solved in the design, and yielded precise and correct calculations.
The global design and engineering company, Quadrante, which is headquartered in Portugal and implements infrastructure projects all over Europe, Africa, and Latin America, started implementing BIM with Allplan about seven years ago and more specifically, made the switch to Allplan Bridge last year for their bridge projects. They use it not just for common bridge types like prefabricated or box girder bridges but also to model underpasses, retaining walls, and permanent tracks in the railway system. An example that was presented was a major bridge project in South America which is over a river with a span of over 200 metres and is made up of cantilevered segments. It also has variable cross-sections throughout the length of the bridge, which they were able to view and work with easily in Allplan (Figure 10). In addition to Allplan Bridge for bridge design, Quadrante also make extensive use of Allplan Engineering for detailing and Allplan Bimplus for collaboration.
Other key highlights from the customer presentations include the Bridge and Tunnel Institute of China showing how Allplan helps them to comply with Chinese code requirements for the horizontal and vertical axes of their bridge designs; COGECI, an engineering firm in France, showing how they used Allplan to consolidate multiple IFC files for their Mantes-la-Jolie viaduct project near Paris (Figure 11); the use of Allplan Bridge and Allplan Engineering in conjunction with Bentley’s OpenRoads for the Taylors Bridge Road in Delaware in the US by the engineering firm, Pennoni, and the use of Allplan Bimplus for interoperability between them; the use of Allplan’s road solutions by the Swiss firm, CDS Bauingenieure, for their road projects, for which they have developed a library of cross-section profiles (Figure 12); the extensive use of Visual Scripting for its bridge design projects by the German firm, KREBS+KIEFER (Figure 13); the use of Allplan Bimplus for the navigation of a bridge project near across River Sava in Gradiška, Croatia, by the firm, Radionica mostova (Figure 14); and finally, the use of Allplan Bridge by SSF - RO SRL in Romania for the Sibiu-Pitesti Highway project (Figure 15).
I was in London recently and happened to visit the St Pancras International train station, where, seeing the multitudes of people relying on public transportation to travel with families and friends to get to places made me appreciate anew how critical the work done by the AEC industry is. It also made me feel proud to be involved in a field that builds the infrastructure used for housing and transporting people, even though I focus on the software that enables it rather than the actual building of it. This sentiment was also echoed by some of the ALLPLAN executives at the Infrastructure Day event — it is an amazing feeling to be developing the tools that ultimately culminate in the physical world that we inhabit every day.
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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