I have been contacted by Erin Wasney, Business Development Manager at Softree Technical Systems.
She proposed to write a guest post on RoadEng, a software developed to design long roads and large networks of low volume roads faster and easier than other civil design software.
I am more than happy to share his post with you.
(Beginning of guest post)
Onshore wind farms often require a large network of roads to install and access turbines, and as previously shared by the team at www.windfarmbop.com there is often a need for quick planning and analysis. As followers of the blog, we were inspired to share some information on our software, RoadEng.
The video below shows an example of a wind farm project created in RoadEng Civil Engineer. As a software tool, RoadEng is a detailed geometric design software, but its focused functionality allows for it to be used for quick planning, analysis and visualization.
Created more than 30 years ago to support the design of forest road networks in complex terrain, RoadEng is now being widely used in renewable energy projects. There are many similarities between the requirements of forest road networks and those required to develop and maintain windfarm projects, mainly:
- Projects are often time and cost sensitive, both from a planning and implementation standpoint,
- Road networks are usually low volume resource roads that may include greenfield construction or upgrades to existing access infrastructure,
- Pads and/or landings are usually required and built as part of the road portion of the project,
- Location of the road is often influenced by other project factors and being able to quickly update a road design to account for other project parameters is important to help facilitate timely decisions and avoid expensive redesigns often encountered when using slower, less dynamic/interactive software, and
- Often the personnel planning the access infrastructure have additional roles in the project. Having a fast, easy-to-learn software that doesn’t require a drafting background to quickly become proficient makes adopting RoadEng as a design platform easy but more importantly reduces the need for more project personnel. This often allows decision makers to have a more wholistic understanding of the project, do more design themselves, increasing productivity, and avoid some of the challenges associated with design review and communication.
In RoadEng, the horizontal and vertical alignments are connected, and a cross section geometry is attached to the 3D centerline automatically. Pre-built customizable components make building smart cross section geometries easy, and in situations where more complicated cross sections are required (as in the video below), components can be combined and/or linked together:
As the user creates or adjusts their alignment, all aspects of the design update in real time; no need to manually prompt the software to recalculate and since the software is light, users can avoid having to deal with the frustration of click-wait, click-wait, click-wait as their computer struggles to keep up with the computation requirements. In other software, it is common for users to truncate their projects into short, workable segments to reduce computing requirements, in RoadEng it is not uncommon for users to do detailed designs for multiple alignments in a single file for roads over 50km long and based on large LiDAR data sets.
Aside from just considering site geometry, road costs are often significant and are worthy of careful consideration during the design process. RoadEng offers several tools that help designers quickly evaluate how much effort is required to build a project. These tools include:
- Traditional mass haul diagram, with cut and fill quantities
- Opti Haul diagram, tracking excavation and fill volumes by material type; solving for optimal material movement by individual material types, definable quality requirements and movement direction constraints
- Alignment Costing, including an ability to easily compare alignment options and get the associated sub-grade construction costs for each option (we call this “design time costing”).
Finally, construction costs and time spent designing can be further reduced by using Softree Optimal. It is a patented earthwork optimization add-on tool for RoadEng that can help reduce costs by generating a vertical alignment that minimizes earthwork costs (embankment, excavation, and movement costs for sub-grade materials). According to a study completed by FP Innovations (2017) on low volume resource roads, vertical optimization reduced the estimated construction cost by 13% to 22%, on average, depending on road design standard.
Other notable functions included in RoadEng for wind farm design:
- 3D symbols for turbines – allows for visualization of the turbines in the context of the roads and pads
- Drainage tools – hydrology tools and watershed calculations, as well as a culvert editor tool for quick additions of culverts and cross-drains to projects
- Graded pad object optimization – balances cut & fill for graded pad objects
- Multi-Plot report builder – semi-automated creation of construction documentation
- Field-focused tools – creation of Avenza georeferenced maps, GPS integration during design
Although not ideal for every civil engineering project, RoadEng performs well in rural infrastructure applications, particularly for quick planning and analysis, as is often the case for wind farm road networks.