Martijn Karelse, Project Manager and Hydraulic Engineer discusses how the latest digital developments are allowing the Go-Wa dike team to keep their options open.

With 23km of dike to reinforce, new design standards to comply to, a shortened timescale and a local population sceptical about the project, the Gorinchem-Waardenburg (Go-Wa) dike project in the western Netherlands could quickly get mired in a mass of technical data or conflicting opinions. In order to manage this process efficiently some of the latest digital tools, techniques and working practices are being put to the test.

A tough challenge

Due to climate change, new data and greater understanding of flood threats, new design standards have been issued by the Dutch Government. As a result many of the country’s dikes will need reinforcement, the Go-Wa dike is one of the first projects to fall under these new guidelines.

The reinforcement of a dike 23km long presents a pretty significant challenge, usual reinforcement projects being around 5km. Naturally, terrain, soil conditions, population, industry and space available all vary over such a distance making the solution far from a one size fits all for the length of the dike.

In addition to the natural challenges to be faced, the project team must also ensure that the local population and stakeholders are fully informed and engaged in the process as in this area it is not long since they last had to deal with a major renewal project.

Harnessing digital technology

With such a wide-ranging project both in geographical and social terms, digital tools and technology are helping us forge a new way of working. Using Building Information Modelling (BIM), 3D design and iReport we are able to not only vastly improve the accuracy of our modelling but also improve transparency and communication around the project.

Rendering of a lock | Royal HaskoningDHV

Forming an alliance

The Go-Wa project has also presented us with a new way of working with the client the Waterboard Rivierenland. Due to the decreased timescales the project is operating under, the work has been awarded to our team as a single assignment, from study phase through design into construction - doing away with a second tender process which would normally determine the detailed design and construction contractor.

The team (consisting of the three contractors Heijmans, GMB and de Vries & van de Wiel together with Royal HaskoningDHV as their main subcontractor) is operating as an alliance with our public sector client, we share risk, trials, tribulations and rewards, so much so that there is no longer a ‘them and us’ merely a single team working for a common goal. This “Best for Project” principle is already paying off.

In order to achieve this level of cooperation the client was at pains during the selection process to ensure that we could work well together, that we were a good fit, in fact this element of the tender formed over fifty percent of their decision.

Changing the parameters

Taking a parametrical approach to the design has vastly reduced the time needed to complete the geotechnical calculations necessary to comply with the new design standards. Using a standard method a single calculation would take three weeks. Now, by harnessing the digital tools at our disposal and automating the process this has been cut to four days. By automating both pre and post processing we can easily adjust several calculations at once should the parameters or starting points change. Our 3D model is also set up parametrically which allows us to instantly understand the effect alterations to the design will have on the dike.

External digital engagement

Key to engaging local stakeholders is the ability of digital tools to improve visualisation of the proposals and the accessibility of extensive environmental data through the iReport. As a result, these tools can provide the foundation for an open discussion with stakeholders and local residents.

Internal digital tools

With over 50 people in the Alliance working on the Go-Wa dike project there are of course a huge range of opinions, experience and specialisms. Trying to marshal all these different elements can be a little bit like herding cats but using iRoom we are able to regularly congregate for a virtual planning session where all options, ideas and suggestions can be investigated, issues identified and plans adjusted. This ability to bring together all team members representing the main disciplines delivers both time and cost savings for the client. As a result we are confident that we will end up with the best possible solution, having fully investigated all options.

Digital trailblazers

As one of the first projects to operate under the stringent new guidelines our Go-Wa project will be watched closely by others but we are confident that by harnessing the advances in digital tools we are in a strong positon to lead the way towards future flood protection for the Netherlands.