The convergence of 3D, geospatial, and engineering design enables design modelling in 5D [five dimensions], which enhances both sustainability and emergency response planning, according to software design solutions Autodesk.

Speaking in Malaysia, Autodesk director of technology, Geoff Zeiss said that the convergence of geospatial, engineering design, and 3D -- GIS, [geographical information systems] CAD [computer aided design], BIM [building information modelling] -- has allowed the company to offer modelling solutions in 5D.

"The 5D approach allows tight control of 3D design as well as project management in a time sequence [fourth dimension] as well as detailed monetary implications to any real-time changes. The ability to immediately see monetary implications of any design or project variations constitutes the fifth dimension," said Zeiss.

He said that this approach of using electronic models allowed in-depth collaboration over networks. "Clash detection is one of the problems that can be managed through intelligent modelling, which also enable 4D management. This involves using a 3D model that is linked to project management applications, which run through project instances, thus allowing a project to be viewed in time sequence."

Penang - an early adopter

"Geospatial is used in many different processes around location-based applications or GIS systems," Zeiss said, adding that such intelligent 5D modelling would be useful to both public service and business organizations throughout Asia.

"For example, Malaysia's Penang state is in many respects leading the world in using such solutions for some years," he said. "One such recent project is the mapping of underground utility networks in Penang, started in 2008. Recently, while I was on the island of Penang, I encountered an interesting approach for mapping and maintaining a database of underground facilities that is unlike anything I have seen elsewhere."

"Called Sutra D'Bank [Penang state government subterranean data bank], which is maintained by a joint venture company Equarater (Penang) -- EPSB -- formed by Equarater and the Penang Development Corporation," said Zeiss.

"Sutra D' Bank's customers are utilities or any other party undertaking excavations in areas under the jurisdiction of the local government," he said. "The operators of Sutra D'Bank will identify the location of underground facilities in the planned excavation area, using the Sutra D'Bank database of underground facilities, supplemented by an on-site survey using a variety of technologies. This is similar to the service that many utilities and telecoms provide, but identifies all underground facilities, not just those of one utility or telecoms."

Communication of GIS-driven models to emergency response teams

"One of biggest benefits of the converged modelling approach is the ability to communicate the impact of projects and infrastructure across to different audience, often non-technical audiences such as local authorities," Zeiss said.

"Google or Bing would show the externals of buildings in 3D but am emergency fire team would also need to see inside buildings," he said. "The combination of geospatial with engineering data through any internet browser is invaluable in such conditions."

"About 90 per cent of information relating to environmental assessments and plans is already geotagged, according to a recent Inspire confidence," said Zeiss. "Inspire is a European initiative that involves 27 countries in the European Union [EU] that shares environmental data."

"Most governments say 80 per cent of their information has a geospatial dimension," he said. "Police and fire departments chiefs need geospatial data combined with 3D models."