Immersive Digital Twins Helps China Shanghai Railway Engineering Establish New Practices to Deliver Sewage Treatment Plant


The Beihu Sewage Treatment Plant project is located on the east side of the intersection of Tengfei Avenue and Bajifu Road in the Wuhan Chemical New Area. Its coverage area includes about 130 square kilometers of the Shahu, Erlang Temple, Luobuzui, and Baiyushan sewage systems and serves 2.48 million people. Covering 532,000 square meters, the Beihu sewage treatment plant will initially treat 800,000 tons of sewage daily and eventually reach a final production rate of 1.5 million tons per day. The new plant is the largest scale sewage treatment plant ever built in China and in greater Asia.

China Railway Shanghai Engineering Bureau (CRSEB) is responsible for constructing the main structure of each unit and the pipeline installation work in the factory. This scope includes civil design of more than 31 buildings, ranging from pump rooms to distribution wells, multiple tanks, and other related treatment equipment. Eleven major categories of electromechanical pipelines are covered by the project engineering requirements. There are major challenges in this project that require highly efficient and controlled design and project management practices to deliver it successfully. Some of the requirements include managing the deformation, shrinkage, and cracking of highly sensitive biological and membrane pools, while accounting for the difficulty of controlling the impermeability of concrete. Minimizing field rework to place the numerous reserved holes and pre-embedded bushings across multiple structures is a monumental challenge requiring robust methods and standards.

To achieve the stringent requirements of the project, CRSEB turned to BIM methodologies to establish a digital twin of the sewage treatment plant. Incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to capture photos of the existing site extended the information-based digital twin to an immersive one. Leveraging the immersive digital twin establishes more reliable engineering workflows, such as rebar modeling. Using the graphical representation of the digital twin helped improve methods for managing project progress and cost and enhance the execution and safety of on-site construction.

CRSEB’s implementation of BIM methodologies combined with Bentley’s OpenBuildings Designer, ContextCapture, ProStructures, and LumenRT resulted in tremendous ROI for this project. Construction durations were shortened by using UAVs and ContextCapture to support calculating the number of earthworks required by seven-to-10 days per square kilometer, resulting in a RMB 310,000 savings for this calculation alone. Likewise, the immersive digital twin, used with ProStructures for advanced calculations, helped ensure that the delicate and highly sensitive pool walls were more easily constructed, saving the project an estimated RMB 2.3 million. Changing the mode of design and construction of rebar saved an additional RMB 1.71 million, while also shortening the construction schedule by 25 days. And, in construction, the immersive digital twin was used to educate the on-site teams, shortening construction by an additional 121 days due to improvements in efficiency, saving another RMB 1.27 million.

The success of this project has enabled CRSEB to transform the way it does business. Lei Huang, a senior executive with CRESB, said, “Based on the way we applied Bentley software, certain technological advancements in this corporate water environment protection project have been obtained. By combining project features in the current phase, our company will further promote the application of BIM technology.”

The results CRSEB achieved on this project have laid the groundwork for the engineering bureau to look for more opportunities to advance their digital maturity. This includes research and development in areas such as structural live-action modeling technologies to build intelligent construction sites, making multi-aspect data acquisition by combining various sensors and sharing information and realizing application of digital construction sites. By adopting BIM methodologies and industrializing their project delivery methods using immersive digital twins and Bentley technology, CSREB has built a foundation for future success.