Digital technology empowers us to meet the challenges of our time head-on by extending our human senses, enhancing our cognitive power, freeing up our creative capacity, and improving our ability to connect with others.
At Zutari, our broad collective of in-house experts leads the engineering and advisory industry. We draw from deep technical skills, accrued over nine decades, and embrace the transformative power of digital technology to find simpler, better and more innovative ways to deliver value for our clients.
After all, as the problems we face become more complex, our tools must become more sophisticated. Digital technology empowers us to meet the challenges of our time head-on by extending our human senses, enhancing our cognitive power, freeing up our creativity capacity, and improving our ability to connect with others. By extending our human abilities, digital technology enables us to design, deliver and manage infrastructure in ways that maximise its value for communities, economies and environments.
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At the intersection of infrastructure and information lie opportunity.
When we practice BIM, we create, model and manage information about the things we build. Critical information is created and stored in useful formats that remain accessible throughout the lifespan of the infrastructure asset – a lifespan very likely to exceed that of its designers and builders.
Consistently and reliably producing such information is an investment that continues to bear fruit. In the present, it enables better coordination among the various stakeholders involved in infrastructure development; it allows us to visualise the things we are building and create a more tangible conversation around this shared understanding. What is more, through BIM, current and future generations of people who manage, maintain, or change infrastructure assets are empowered – to work efficiently, to make informed decisions, to harness the full potential for impact inherent in their assets.
As an example, imagine designing a new airport terminal. BIM would allow all stakeholders to work together in real-time on the same 3-dimensional design, improving coordination and efficiency within and among the various teams. BIM would be just as useful after construction… A digital model of the terminal, enriched with information about everything from tile specifications to load bearing capacities, would empower those running, maintaining or transforming the facility. Not only would it place the current information about the physical aspects of the terminal at their fingertips, but it would also help them keep this information updated.
“Imagine a world in which first responders would have instant access to an updated clickable 3D model of the emergency site they are entering… Imagine if a firefighter could see, at a glance, where a building’s fire equipment or emergency exits were located and understand the level of fire retardation of its walls… ”
We know that many of the bridges being built today will not only have to be maintained, but will have to be significantly improved as traffic, transport needs and vehicles evolve. Ensuring integrity of information through BIM is one of the ways we make sure that bridge infrastructure is ready for future changes, thereby optimising the lifetime value of this critical asset. This same principle holds for any infrastructure asset…
Lost building plans?
Zutari specialises in creating digital plans, models and information for undocumented physical buildings quickly and affordably. Using state-of-the-art scanning technology like drones and SLAM scanners, Zutari can create building outlines from scratch.
Our technology allows us to measure dimensions, map, model and photograph information related to the inside and outside of these facilities. Using specialist software, we can then create a three-dimensional digital model of the building. The digital form is also called a digital twin. It presents a close copy of reality and can be used to effectively manage, maintain or change the facility, far into the future.
“Digital models and plans allow us to turn the opaque into the tangible. By creating a shared picture of reality, we empower people to make sense of what is so that they can move forward to make things better.”
Zutari had the opportunity to create a digital twin of the Liberty head office in Braamfontein. The 45,000 square metre building was first measured with high-tech scanners. This information was then used to create a 3D model of the entire facility – from the basement to the roof. Drones were used to photograph the outside and inside and create a realistic photographic skin. Creating this digital representation of reality is the start of the smart information journey; this “digital twin” can now be enriched with all the information needed for effective operation and management of the facility.
The power of iteration…
Innovative designs become possible when we are empowered to safely test ideas – not only against the limits of physical reality, but within the context of a complex web of stakeholders. Digital engineering design tools, such as three-dimensional modelling and simulations, do just this.
Digital models and simulations allow engineers to test and prove innovative and unusual designs and processes against the physics of the material world. Because of their 3-dimensional and visual nature, these models can also be intuitively understood by a wider audience of non-technical stakeholders, such as the people who use and operate infrastructure. By responding to a visual model, instead of a 2-dimensional drawing, these practical people are empowered to give their valuable input.
Engineers can then change their designs in a series of low-stakes digital iterations that would not be possible with physical infrastructure. These changes inevitably lead to better, more human-centred design.
“The world has changed radically since the time of empirical 2-dimensional engineering design. This time-intensive design method limited the number of design options that could be realistically considered. What’s more, the technical nature of these drawings made it hard for anyone but engineers to understand them, limiting their use with many important stakeholders.”
Three-dimensional digital design was critical to addressing the unique challenges Zutari faced when designing the Centurion station, and related viaducts, for the Gautrain rapid rail link. Digital 3D modelling enabled the creation of unique engineering designs that addressed the interaction between operational requirements, structural limits and the geological features of the site.
The Impactful infrastructure of the future is sentient, connected and smart.
In engineering, the Internet of Things refers to a network of smart, connected gizmos and gadgets embedded in infrastructure assets, as well as the computer systems, algorithms and interfaces used to store, filter and present related data. These objects are enabled with sensors, software and other technology that allow them to collect real-time data, to communicate with other objects or systems, and be used to automate various responses.
“In the future, infrastructure will actively partner with people to optimise, ensure safety and manage risk…”
During the recent drought in Cape Town, Zutari created a digital model (a digital twin) of the Cape Town water supply system. By using the IoT, we were able to measure various aspects of this system, such as flow in pipes, pump rates, water level in reservoirs, as well as understand how people were using water.
This real-time data helped the city effectively steer the water crisis by improving the network, imposing restrictions when needed, plugging leaks and taking various other remedial actions. This pro-active crisis management allowed day zero to be pushed further and further back. It also helped with effective public communication, which created trust and improved cooperation.
Less paper. Better data.
Through digital systems and applications, Zutari now captures site management records in highly structured, paperless ways. This is more efficient, and significantly reduces risk of accidental loss of data. It also allows for a seamless flow of updated information among stakeholders and, when all stakeholders are on the same (digital) page, collaboration improves, and delays are prevented. What’s more, bringing site management data in the digital realm allow us to analyse and use it in new and innovative ways. With digital data, it becomes easier to anticipate risks, predict trends and respond in ways that add value to construction projects.
“It not about using less paper; it’s about creating better, more reliable data in a format that allows people to connect, respond, learn and improve.”
Zutari has served as site manager on a vast array of infrastructure projects for 90 years. We have successfully signed off on thousands of projects across the energy, water, built environment, transport, and resources markets.
The designing engineer’s superpower…
Computational design is an engineering design method that uses a combination of designer inputs, design parameters, and algorithms to solves design problems using advanced computer processing.
Because these designs are quickly and digitally produced, they not only increase productivity, but allow engineers to explore a larger number of design options. Computational design allows engineers to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world by making creative experimentation not only possible, but cost effective and accurate.
When considering a design challenge, an engineer no longer needs to stick to the tried-and-tested; he can now try and test radically innovative solutions, within reasonable timeframes. Because of the power of computational design technology to model, analyse and compare – the options for designs, fabrication, materials and processes are expanded.
What is more, computational designs allow engineers to design plans and models with built-in responsiveness. These plans and models can be easily and effectively updated when engineers encounter unanticipated challenges during the construction phase. This eliminates the need to redraw changed plans, saves time and money, and allows engineers to create more robust designs.
“Before computational design, the vast collection of intricately connected building plans for the tunnel and connecting roads would have to have been redrawn. In a digital age, however, engineers can design and model in more responsive ways that minimises the impact of unanticipated changes. For instance, if a tunnel needs to move two degrees to the south, the plans for the tunnel and connecting roads could be adjusted with minimal effort. The potential savings in terms of time and money are astronomical.”
Zutari provided all engineering services and construction supervision for the State of Qatar’s pavilion for the Dubai Expo 2020. Computational design was critical to the success of this time-constrained project, allowing stakeholders to deliver an innovative and structurally sound design with incredible speed and accuracy.
What if we could confidently predict the future?
The insights that can be derived from mathematics and statistics, when paired with today’s supercomputers, make it possible to analyse large data sets and uncover hidden patterns. This information can be used to create predictive models – able to answer various “what if” questions that empower people to make better design decisions.
For example, one might want to investigate the impact of weather, time of day and occupancy levels on the energy usage of an air-conditioning system at a green-rated building. Firstly, various sensors would be used to capture data over time. Through the power of numerical modelling, this data could be used to create predictive models – able to test several scenarios under simulated conditions. What if it was a cold day? What if it was a hot day? What if the building was full? What if it was empty? These outputs empower the people who design, operate and manage the facility to ensure the comfort of the buildings while using as little energy as possible – under all conditions.
“Green building design and certification requires a trade-off between architectural design and environmental sustainability. Zutari’s environmentally sustainable design (ESD) team allow these trade-offs to be made confidently by testing various “what if” scenarios to determine the effect of building features on environmental factors such as energy usage and water consumption.”
Zutari has partnered with the University of Cape Town (UCT) to anlayse the viability of replacing its fleet of diesel student busses with electric busses. Using the power of numerical modelling, the team was able to compare financial viability and carbon footprint across various scenarios, supporting UCT to make an informed and responsible decision.
Engineering + art = clarity.
Technologies like BIM, Reality Capture and GIS create critical information about the real world in digital format; whether a digital “scan” of an airport’s floorplan, a 3D model of a bridge, or a smart map of roads and border posts in a region. Visualisation take these representations of reality to the next level – creating beautiful, realistic, immersive, and interactive digital experiences. These visualisations create intuitive visual understanding of spaces and ideas; clarity which is tremendously useful when engaging and communicating with a variety of stakeholders along the entire project lifecycle.
Visualisations come in many forms. We can visualise technical processes, the way sun and shadow move across a solar plant, or the sequence of an interchange’s construction. Virtual reality can even help us experience, in an immersive way, what an existing site would look like once a project has been completed.
Visualisations have many additional applications in the training and education space. Much like flight simulators, they allow the people who operate infrastructure to practice on a digital replica. This dramatically reduces the time new facilities take to become fully operational. When it comes to operating high-risk facilities, such as power- and water purification plants, the benefits are multiplied.
“Realistic, immersive and interactive visualisation creates a smoother interface between the physical and digital world, freeing up the cognitive capacity needed to understand and solve problems; allowing us to communicate with greater clarity.”
Zutari is proud to have contributed to the Doha Expressway Programme. One of the world’s largest transport infrastructure initiatives, it involves a comprehensive primary road network upgrade consisting of 40 projects that add approximately 800 km of road to Qatar’s transport network, along with 95 new interchanges, 200 bridges, 90 underpasses, 50 tunnels and 450 km of enhanced pedestrian and cycle roads. Digital engineering was critical to creating and communicating with clarity in this demanding and complex environment. Zutari made extensive use of simulations, 3D models and visualisations to both create and communicate civil designs, estimates and workflows.
Making the most of infrastructure assets.
At Zutari, we believe infrastructure has unparalleled potential to create enduring impact. Our clients manage a variety of infrastructure assets, including transport, water, energy, resources and built-environment infrastructure. By supporting these organisations to plan, design, deliver, manage and transform infrastructure assets in ways that maximise current and future value, we make sustainability real.
In all of this, we draw on the power of digital engineering to support clients to identify and verify their physical assets; to create updated data registers; to create and manage information around physical assets; and to analyse asset information in order to mitigate risks and identify opportunities for impact.
“The importance, and complexity, of effective asset management grows when infrastructure is geographically spread out, expensive to maintain, important to the effective operation of an entire country and its economy, and when this infrastructure is ageing. This description fits well with transport, water and energy infrastructure in Africa – all areas of deep speciality for Zutari.”
The city of Cape Town’s Public Housing Department approached Zutari with an infrastructure-related business problem. The Department manages an overwhelming portfolio of public housing facilities. These include 43 000 rental units, 11 000 hostel spaces, and 700 staff housing units. The effective management and maintenance of these facilities directly impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens. The city needed a solution to care for assets and people – one that maximised the value of these assets while dealing head-one with the complexity of identifying, describing, reporting, logging, scoping, fixing, tracking, and reporting maintenance and upgrades issues across a multi-department team managing 58 000 spaces and their tenants.
While the knee-jerk solution might have been a mere asset register, Zutari realised that the client needed a comprehensive and sustainable turnaround plan. Drawing on the power of radical collaboration and using digital technology such as GIS spatial analysis and management dashboards, Zutari was able to solve the business problem, make the most of human assets and add real value to stakeholders along the asset management value chain.
Turning raw data into actionable insights.
Before data, there is always a question. Zutari works with clients to develop a deep understanding of their needs, and to carefully determine the kind, frequency, and sources of the data most likely to answer their questions. Once we understand data needs, we can ensure that the right data is generated and collected.
This is just the beginning, however. The overwhelming amount of data being generated today require sophisticated storage, server- and network solutions. What’s more, in its raw form, this data is virtually impossible to comprehend or use. Data must first be cleaned of errors and inconsistencies and must then be organised into formats fit for analysis.Without a doubt – this long and complicated data journey is worth the trouble. Modern analytics are exceedingly powerful, allowing us to read a sea of data and to translate unprecedented amounts of information into powerful, actionable insights. Through modern data analytics, we can better understand the past and present, in all its complexity, while reliably predicting the probability of future scenarios.
“Data is a little bit like oil. If it’s just lying on the ground its black and sticky and you wouldn’t want it on your shoes. But put it through a refinery and you get petrol, jet fuel and plastic… Data, in its raw form, is worse than useless. In its refined form, however, it is worth more than gold.”
Solar and wind farms generate masses of data. Zutari specialists use Artificial Intelligence and other digital tools to clean, organise and analyse this information, presenting it to clients as a series of useful interfaces and reports. These reports are used, among other things, to prove that energy production has met contractual requirements. By providing access to reliable, real-time data, these reports have improved communication and, as a result, have fostered trust among stakeholders.
Overcoming the limitations of space and time.
Zutari’s geospatial engineering professionals use cutting-edge technologies to offer geospatial data capture and analytics, information management and data visualisation services to clients in the built environment, energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure space.
GIS can layer information from a rich variety of sources over geospatial maps; plotting data such as population density, transport networks, or data from the Internet of Things (IoT), over maps of cities and regions. In this way, GIS helps humans to order information visually, make connections and spot patterns. Because GIS is built on a database, the data associated with the map can also be analysed to answer critical questions.
Zutari frequently uses GIS technology to support countries and cities in the development of master plans. These plans guide infrastructure rehabilitation and development, critical for economic growth. By layering data such as the neighbourhood poverty index, traffic- and road conditions data alongside the location of business and farming districts, GIS can help determine areas for high-impact investment. These insights can then be layered onto the same map, which becomes a powerful tool when communicating with investors and stakeholders alike.
“At the intersection of the human and physical world; many stories lie waiting to be told. Stories of patterns and relationships, of real-time states across locations, or of changing conditions over time. By telling these stories in ways we can intuitively understand, GIS offers virtually endless ways to enhance decision making, mitigate risks, improve asset performance, and communicate effectively with stakeholders.”
Zutari is a leader in the development of smart Pavement Management Systems using GIS technology. Pavement Management Systems provide a systematic way to collect road condition data, and to store, analyse and model this data to make better decisions and effectively optimise resources across an entire road network.
In the future, all municipalities will be run this way…
Much of the Africa’s critical utility network – power cables, water pipes, and sewage networks, are not effectively documented. Yet, effectively managing these hidden networks is critical.
Spatial utility modelling creates digital models and maps of power-, water-, and sewage-infrastructure networks. These digital representations of reality empower people who manage, repair and plan utility networks with real-time information and powerful data analytics. Combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), the applications of these digital models are endless.
With spatial utility modelling, municipalities can answer a wide variety of critical questions. Can we dig there, or are there pipes we might damage? Where is the faulty transformer that is causing these outages? How can we reroute the water, so that fewer customers are inconvenienced? Where exactly is the cable that we need to repair? Knowing the answers to these and other questions allow municipalities to provide better services to people and run more effective and environmentally sustainable operations.
“Effective utility infrastructure management is critical to the creation of thriving communities and economies.”
Zutari is a leader in the field of spatial utility modelling. We are especially proud of our extensive work in modelling electrical networks. We have modelled entire cities like Durban and Abuja, and our smart models and maps are transformational, allowing stakeholders to view and simulate scenarios as if on a wire-diagram in a physics class.
Interface enables connection; connection unlocks possibility
In a hyper-connected world, human beings have access to incredible technological advances, unprecedented information and a global community of diverse human minds and perspectives. These connections hold tremendous potential. They also present risks, as the many strands of connection might just as easily become a knot impossible to unravel. In fact, the only thing that separates a trap of entanglement from a web of connection is the interface between humans and the technology, processes or data with which they engage.
Zutari specialises in creating a wide range of interface experiences, such as dashboards, maps, contextual Augmented Reality, 3-D models and mobile apps. Uniquely tailored to meet the needs of our clients, these interfaces enable sense-making, collaboration and communication; unlocking new ways of seeing, thinking and acting.
“Effective interfaces are critical to creating clarity for those who design, create, manage and transform infrastructure. Smart maps, dashboards, aps, and models allow us to take the pulse of our current infrastructure assets and to plan for their future.”
Automation of water purification plants seems attractive. In reality, however, plant automation leads to detached operators, often resulting in low plant quality. Inspired by this insight, Zutari have designed several award-winning water-purification plants that minimise automation, while empowering plant operators through digital interfaces. Good plant design and effective dashboards ensure that plant operators have their eyes on everything. The operators are equipped, and remain accountable, for running an effective plant. This kind of design is no easy feat, however. It requires operators to provide practical inputs on highly technical designs before these are finalised. Digital interfaces, such as 3-D models and virtual reality walk-throughs of the designs, make this input possible; enabling the collaborative, iterative design process credited for much of the team’s success.
Leaner. Smarter. More human…
Clients in the business of infrastructure face many challenges not directly related to their physical assets. These challenges can be complex and multi-faced, arising at the interface between infrastructure and the people, processes and systems that use and animate these assets.
At Zutari we draw on the power of digital technology to better understand these challenges, and to test, evaluate and design relevant and human-centered solutions. These solutions help clients work better by reducing friction and improving the efficiency of their processes and systems.We are also keenly aware of the human component of business and process challenges. We draw on the rich perspectives of our clients, partners and infrastructure end-users to explore problems more deeply and to co-create in bolder, more human-centred ways.
“A bad process undermines good infrastructure – every time… Invest in a good process.”
South African legislation now requires mining rights holders to assist their employees to become home-owners. A good idea in principle, this has proven remarkably complex in practice. Mining giant, Assmang, approached Zutari to help them address this key business risk, solve the related process challenges, and make the most of a tremendous opportunity for impact through infrastructure.
To unravel the complexity of home-ownership among mineworkers, a historically sensitive and controversial issue, Zutari applied practical tools from the fields of Design Thinking, Systems Thinking and Lean Thinking. This included building empathy and trust among stakeholders and empowering people at all levels of the organisation to co-create an inclusive, sustainable and fair new housing policy. This was a radical departure from business-as-usual in the mining sector, where the home-ownership issue had often resulted in opposing parties locking horns and paralysing production. Zutari also supported Assmang to effectively communicate the new housing benefit options; and to improve and streamline Human Resource systems and processes for a smooth roll-out of the new scheme. Innovative human-centred design, effective communication and frictionless processes all contributed to a solution which continues to benefit 5200 employees and their families.
Solving the digital tower of Babel dilemma.
In a digital age, infrastructure assets are increasingly linked to multiple computer systems. Buildings host security as well as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Transport- and utility infrastructure are linked to digital maps and databases. Smart sensors on toll gates send traffic data to mobile applications…
When viewed in isolation, each system is relatively simple. When an asset is associated with multiple systems, however, things get very messy rather quickly. What’s more, these systems are not necessarily implemented simultaneously. Often, shiny new systems must coexist, unhappily, with legacy systems from decades earlier.
If humans are to make sense of infrastructure data, it is critical that these diverse systems speak the same language. Figuring out how to translate the incomprehensible babble of multiple systems into a single intelligible language, is a complex and technical challenge our engineers relish.
The result of all this geekery, however, is elegant and useful; a single interface that draws from various systems to present data in a human-friendly format.
“It is critical that we configure the many systems now linked to infrastructure in ways that allow us to see the big picture. Only then can we manage the asset in ways that save time and money. Only then can we make sure the asset does what it is supposed to do.”
For buildings to be truly green, it is not enough that systems for water usage, energy consumption and air quality exist… To be effective, the data from these systems must be used to improve the facility’s performance. As leaders in the green building space, Zutari specialises both in configuring a wide variety of modern systems, and in creating a single integrating platform that empowers the people who own and run these buildings.