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Building future-proof bridges with digitalisation


Municipality of Amsterdam


IJburg second phase


Design, project, contract, technical and environmental management, BIM, system-oriented contract management and systems engineering


Grimshaw Architects

United Nations sustainable development goal number 9 - industry, innovation and infrastructure
United Nations sustainable development goal number 11 - sustainable cities and communities

Connecting residential islands in Amsterdam

IJburg, an urban development residential district being built on reclaimed land in the eastern part of Amsterdam, has dozens of bridges. Three large new bridges are being built in the area to connect Haveneiland, Centrumeiland and Strandeiland; residential islands in the manmade IJburg archipelago situated in the IJmeer lake.

Digital collaboration

Sweco consultants are using Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the IJburg projects and are seeing the advantages of using the digital collaboration tool in their work.

The strength of BIM is found in working together from one uniform information model; it’s a ‘must’ for parties working from different countries, cities and in different organisations –  Frits Groot, Project Manager Civil Construction, Sweco.

In the IJburg project, Sweco’s experts provide advice and services in design, engineering, procurement assistance and contract management in an integrated project team working together with the Municipality of Amsterdam’s Ingenieursbureau and Urban Planning teams.

“The virtual BIM environment makes it possible to work together efficiently, and to deliver demonstrable quality. We can find design errors much earlier too,” Groot explains.

“We can also scan the digital health of a project to find where the process is not working as hoped or planned. In doing so, we can find and repair process errors before they become an issue, to help run a project more smoothly,” he says. “Even if you aren’t a modeler, with BIM you can look at what you want to see in the project as a team member and can easily access the model, for instance to find space for signage or additional lighting,” adds Frits Groot.

The three bridges being built to connect Haveneiland, Centrumeiland and Strandeiland are of crucial importance for the accessibility to the area: for the traffic flow of cars, trams, cyclists and pedestrians and the transport of utilities to the islands.

In addition to their importance for accessibility the bridges; designed by London-based architectural firm Grimshaw, have become cultural works of art in the district due to their striking appearance with their characteristic wavy steel and lines.

Future-proof solutions

The bridges are made of steel and concrete, but by working with BIM and continuously looking for optimisation options, a ‘slim design’ has been created. They have also been designed to anticipate the future: the road surfaces are quite high and flow from bridge to land, creating space for pavilions and a parking entrance at the abutment. The hull and the installations of the pavilions have already been included in the design and realisation process, which allows for a suitable function for these spaces to be found in the future, creating flexibility and adaptability.

“By utilising information and virtual technology from data models, we are able to visualise the use of both physical and functional objects for various stakeholders at an early stage of the project, and we ensure that the bridges will meet present and future needs of end users,” Frits Groot notes.

Three billion data points per year to monitor bridge performance.

A smart, sustainable bridge in the Province of Fryslân, The Netherlands replaces the old bridge over the Van Harinxma Canal near Ritsumasyl. The new smart bridge has been made of biocomposite material and fitted with some 200 fibre optic sensors which allow Sweco to continually measure how the material performs, records any changes in shape and documents how the bridge is doing under all circumstances. The sensors collect 3 billion data points every year. Based on this big data, vast knowledge about the material is created that can be used in the design of similar projects in the future.

Sweco is harnessing the potential of digitalisation in this project and based on this big data, vast knowledge about the biocomposite material is created that can be used in the design of similar projects in the future.

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