Business: Greater Capacity Within Civil Engineers’ Reach
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According to civil engineer, Marius Esterhuyze, the answer lies in a paradigm shift – a new approach to project design that replaces skills-hungry methods that involve the redundant re-creation of design information.
A technology specialist at design software innovator, Autodesk, Esterhuyze says the new approach, called building information modelling (BIM), would increase engineering firms’ productivity, helping them to deliver road networks essential for redressing the economic imbalances of Africa.
At the recent AfricaRoads 2009 conference, representatives from across the infrastructure sector urged authorities to invest in African road networks so as to reduce transport costs and regenerate the region’s economy. Existing inadequate road systems increase transport costs by as much as 70% over those in Europe and the US, stifling the region’s competitiveness. And the longer the economic slowdown persists, the more the region will be disadvantaged.
While better roads are an economic imperative, civil engineering professionals’ capacity has been depleted by the global technical skills shortage. South Africa has one of the lowest engineer-to-citizen ratios (473:1 000 000) in the world. Meanwhile, although there has been an increase in the number of engineering professionals employed in South Africa since 1996, the edge has been taken off any gains by the high number of engineering professionals employed in the financial services and business sectors. There has been an annual average growth rate of nearly 19% in engineering professionals working in the financial sector, compared with very small growth in construction (4%).
Esterhuyze says engineering firms could replace traditional ‘siloed’ project workflows of preliminary design, then detailed design and finally the creation of construction documentation, with the new building information modelling (BIM) method. Its model-centric environment enables firms to use fewer resources by developing all three design stages concurrently. BIM underpins the civil engineering design programme, AutoCAD Civil 3D, which helps firms to create and deliver transportation, land development, and environmental projects more efficiently. Johannesburg-based Croswell Engineers reported 60% reduction in design time in the development of 4km of dual and single lane roads at the Lanseria Corporate Estate, north of Johannesburg.
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