AutoCASE Eases Triple Bottom Line Analysis for Infrastructure Projects
Autodesk and Impact Infrastructure launched the new AutoCASE plug-in tool for Civil3D at an event today in San Francisco. The tool provides an easy means to assess the triple bottom line—economic, social and environmental—costs and benefits of projects from within the design environment.
Impact Infrastructure is a three-year-old company with John Williams at the helm. John was formerly principal owner of HDR, Inc., and held various positions including senior vice president and national director sustainable development before retiring from that company in 2012. He’s channeled his passion and 35 years of experience into this new organization, where he is Chairman and CEO, to solve the nagging issue of true cost accounting for infrastructure projects, supplementing the financial and risk data with environmental and social impacts for more sustainable and socially responsible projects.
“Impact Infrastructure has technical competency around systems that support communities and economies,” according to Williams. “We have a growing backlog in the trillions of dollars to make our infrastructure just adequate and safe in America, and there’s an intensifying competition for limited financial resources. Our work with Autodesk is speeding traditional methods of valuation (cost-benefit and risk analysis) to help communities prioritize where they will spend their money.”
Insight in Context
The AutoCASE tool is a plug-in directly in Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D where the user can connect to this triple bottom line analysis from within their traditional design workflow.
“You’ll be able to take the spatial data from a Civil 3D model, such as the areas of a parcel that might be conducive to green infrastructure or at a courser level to identify the wetlands, different forms of land use, and protected habitats,” said Emma Stewart, head of sustainability solutions at Autodesk. “That spatial data automatically informs the AutoCASE analysis and then you have options to get detailed risk adjusted results in Civil 3D or you can kick out to the AutoCASE web service.”
The initial module is specific to stormwater, where public benefits can be explored for factors such as improved water quality, increased recreational opportunities and increased property value. The user can modify different input criteria to achieve the right mix that meets both the project and community objectives.
At the planning, design and engineering phases of project development there are myriad number of decisions that get made with tradeoffs, from site decisions to materials decisions, where factors of cost and sustainability come into play. AutoCASE aims to be a decision support tool at all phases, with automated triple bottom line analysis taking place each time one of these many tradeoffs are being weighed.
“For years now at Autodesk our endeavors have been to embed sustainability into our tools,” said Stewart. “But really, we can only be as successful as our customers craving for that intelligence and demand from their clients. We’ve seen success with firms looking to differentiate themselves in the market or in a bidding process, but many are intimidated. They don’t know how to use that data or use it with confidence, and it requires an extra step. AutoCASE automates this, making it far more likely to use and implement the sustainability insights from our tools.”
Ease of Use
The cloud-based hosting of the AutoCASE solution allows for open-ended scaling in terms of the data that can be aggregated within the toolset. The data that AutoCASE aggregates comes from many authoritative sources, such as regulatory agencies and peer-reviewed studies. This access to the data alone is of considerable value, although the service that customers are buying is in the analytics.
“In the AEC world, one of the biggest challenges is with reports,” said Williams. “They can do the study, but then they get into multiple drafts and they burn through their profits and start to ask themselves why they took on the assignment.”
Dynamic modeling is the goal, where you a company can aggregate the return on investment easily from project to project or if you’re an owner or a government organization you can see the benefit across your whole portfolio of assets.
Expanding Scope and Integration
Impact Infrastructure plans to continue to enhance AutoCASE, with future modules for other infrastructure asset types, such as transit, roads and highways, as well as for buildings.
“We address comparability, which isn’t usually talked about,” said Williams. “Why is one project better than another or a better choice for funding than another? Until you can compare them, you really can’t make that decision. We address that with a common analytical engine that has set and specific metrics whether the design is for transit, stormwater, energy or different types of building.”
“Our customers are very adept at calculating cost and risk, but not the environmental and social costs and benefits because that’s an extremely complex and nuanced exercise,” said Stewart. “This ease of access eliminates the barrier, and we see this as a first step toward guiding them to our other sustainability tools such as our energy modeling for buildings or green infrastructure simulation for civil engineers or compliance benchmarking for LEED.”
Stormwater is the leading module, and one of the more complex because it’s far reaching (wherever water flows) and interfaces with all other infrastructure. The next module is for transit with a release later this year, that builds on top of the same analytical engines, then going to highways, bridges and roads and different types of social infrastructure.
The intent is to leverage AutoCASE within InfraWorks for either a site or a municipal level. City governments are the target at this scale, where they will have the ability to prioritize projects across a municipality and particularly across different government agencies.
“There is a growing interest in placing funds in projects that have long-term social and environmental implications,” said Williams. “Once we are able to make triple bottom line data available, the Green Bond funds will be rapidly attracted to infrastructure projects because we can finally see what their value is, and we can hold the project sponsors to delivering that value as well.”
The new AutoCASE cloud-based TBL service and tool for AutoCAD Civil 3D is now available from Impact Infrastructure, Inc. The initial plug-in module for AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCASE for Stormwater, is available in English, with data to support projects in the United States. AutoCASE for Stormwater is available for free trial usage from today through February 1, 2015. For more availability and subscription pricing information visit www.autocase.com.
Be sure to watch the two videos below from these two spokespeople that Informed Infrastructure captured at Autodesk University 2014: