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The bustling financial district of Canary Wharf in the United Kingdom will soon feature a brand-new pedestrian crossing set to become one of the busiest in London. Designed as a bascule bridge with an overall span of 75 metres and a lifting span of 35 metres, Arcadis met the project’s unique architectural and engineering demands, together with innovative software solutions from Bentley and Seequent.

A vibrant trading hub for 200 years, South Dock is one of the few still in operation along this busy stretch of the River Thames, where daily foot traffic is expected to increase to 85,000 people by 2031.

“The new bridge is designed to cater to future demand, encourage active, sustainable transport, improve access to jobs, retail, and city centre services, alleviate pressure on existing infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions,” says Andrea Gillarduzzi, Senior Technical Director and Lead of Arcadis’ global subsurface digital initiative.

To ensure the bridge combined functionality with its iconic status as a destination landmark, the Arcadis’ team needed an integrated digital solution to coordinate multiple stakeholders and manage complex engineering data.

“By leveraging data and technology, we delivered the design of this infrastructure considering future trends in urbanisation, climate change, digitalisation, and evolving stakeholder expectations. These are crucial factors to ensure the bridge will remain effective in supporting the local community to evolve and thrive,” says Gillarduzzi.

The adoption of Bentley and Seequent’s innovative software, including ProjectWise, iTwin, Leapfrog, PLAXIS, OpenGround, Configuration Explorer and Bentley’ Connect, was key in creating a federated model that enabled the team to centralise and visualise ground investigation and site data, including accurately representing the subsurface geology and ground hazards.

Fast Metrics:

  • Digital solutions reduced ground investigation scope by around 30%, saving more than GBP 70,000.
  • Digital connectivity increased data efficiencies for design cost savings of about 12% (~1,000 hours).
  • A centralised and connected database saw productivity gains of up to 20% for design teams.

Design features echo the curved base of historic cranes that once lined the quays along Canary Wharf. (Video: Arcadis).


Unique Design Challenges Solved with Data-driven Digital Solutions

The South Dock Bridge is a long-term aspiration for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which appointed Arcadis to deliver the feasibility stage and the following RIBA Stage 4 detailed design.

Going digital with Bentley and Seequent’s innovative software enabled, “Close collaboration and coordination between multiple stakeholders and technical teams to address the many logistical challenges during the planning and design phases,” says Gillarduzzi.

“One significant technical challenge was designing the north abutment to house the drive mechanism and a hidden counterweight to balance eccentric loading when the bascule span is open, and buoyancy forces from the submerged abutment,” he said.

The Arcadis team was able to estimate the dredging volumes and create geological cross-sections for the foundation and retaining wall design using Seequent’s Leapfrog 3D modeling, together with FEM PLAXIS 2D and GeoStudio Slope/W and Sigma/W software.

“We also incorporated the location of the submerged obstructions found at the dock’s bottom into our Leapfrog ground model to determine the best spots for the bridge’s piled foundations and reduce construction risks,” adds Gillarduzzi.

Leapfrog 3D modeling also helped verify the project’s buildability concerning complexities with space proofing, dock operations, and the bridge’s unique position within existing high-rise buildings and valuable architectural facades.

A photo of Andrea Gillarduzzi from Arcadis and the Seequent team at the Bentley YII Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure 2023

Arcadis were winners of Bentley’s prestigious 2023 YII Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure in the Subsurface and Modelling category. Andrea Gillarduzzi, centre, together with the team from Bentley and Seequent.


A Digital Approach to Optimise Ground Investigation Analysis

Using Bentley and Seequent digital solutions, Gillarduzzi and the Arcadis team automated document management and quality assurance tasks, which saved them time by keeping everyone connected for reviews and boosting day-to-day productivity.

“During the project planning phase, we compiled and stored all historical and project-specific data using Bentley’s ProjectWise,” says Gillarduzzi. “The connected data environment helped reduce inefficiencies, streamline processes, and was a valuable source of truth for all teams to easily access raw data, the latest models, and deliverables.”

Engineering input data – including digital bathymetric surveys, LiDAR, high-resolution photography, laser scan/topographic surveys, and bridge outline design models using OpenBridge – were all managed and organised with ProjectWise.

The design team also used Bentley’s OpenGround to validate, assure and release ground investigation data, with various design scenarios modeled to help identify project risks and opportunities. With Leapfrog’s intuitive 3D modelling allowing real-time collaboration between over fifty project team members, in ten offices over two continents, throughout the entire design process.

“Our managers and engineers across multiple project disciplines were able to make robust decisions and monitor project progress to better meet deadlines within budget. The integrated digital approach optimised the analysis of ground variability, reduced ground investigation scope by 30% and saved more than GBP 70,000,” says Gillarduzzi.

Arcadis Leapfrog 3D modeling showing the subsurface geology for South Dock Bridge.

Leapfrog’s intuitive 3D modelling showing the subsurface geology and the bridge’s position within the existing high-rise infrastructure. (Image: Arcadis).


Future-proofing Infrastructure with Digital Twin Innovation  

Bentley’s iTwin Platform was ideal for showcasing the bold bascule design and evidence the structure’s accessibility for every user, thanks to the wide walking area and smooth, step-free slopes. And with lighting designed to ensure the bridge is safe to use at night, without impacting adjacent properties or marine life.

“Our 3D Leapfrog models were integrated with project visualisation software, including iTwin and GIS, meaning the project could be shared with wider audiences by incorporating it into our Esri GIS SmartAtlas WebApplications,” says Gillarduzzi.

The design aligns with multiple sustainable development goals (SDGs) and highlights the positive impact and long-term benefits of such critical infrastructure.

“Our project aims to promote inclusive, liveable communities to improve urban connectivity while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Our team purposefully planned and designed to reduce embodied carbon and provide a basis for construction monitoring and proactive maintenance that can continue to help minimize environmental impact,” he said.

Digital solutions from Bentley and Seequent will continue to support the challenging construction, which is scheduled to begin in early 2024. Digital twin technology will also future-proof the bridge with ongoing monitoring to optimize energy usage, reduce maintenance needs, and lower lifecycle costs.

“Going digital has improved collaboration between clients, architects, and design disciplines, making it easier to obtain planning permissions, consents, and funding for this exciting South Dock Bridge project,” says Gillarduzzi.

Arcadis are winners of Bentley’s prestigious 2023 YII Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure. Andrea Gillarduzzi and the team are recognised for their outstanding innovation and digital design capabilities to bring this prominent landmark bridge to life.