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Weatherproof Infrastructure: Reinforcing the Largest Dike in the Netherlands with BIM

For more than 85 years, the Afsluitdijk, a 32-kilometer dam, has been a hallmark of Dutch hydraulic engineering. The dam protects a large portion of the Netherlands from the Wadden Sea and regulates the water level in Lake IJsselmeer, Holland’s biggest lake. This impressive infrastructure project is a model of protective and preventive damage control, incorporating ecological and recreational components. Project planners have implemented the latest technology to work collaboratively and efficiently to strengthen the enclosure dam, increase its capacity to discharge water, and build pumps to transport water into the sea.


reduction in time for design coordination


tonnes reduction in Co2 emissions

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The Problem

LEVVEL – a consortium made up of Van Oord Aberdeen Infrastructure Partners B.V., BAM PPP PGGM Infrastructure Coöperatie U.A. (part of Royal BAM Group), Arcadis and EPICo NL 2 B.V. – will design, build, finance, and maintain the reinforcement of the Afsluitdijk, the largest dike in the Netherlands. The project is a complex multi-disciplinary undertaking that involves numerous stakeholders. Its design is based on recreation, ecology, sustainability, and innovation and includes:

  • Raising and strengthening the dike with 75,000 innovative level-blocks on top of the current basalt cladding.
  • Reconstructing and expanding the lock complex at Den Oever with two large pumping stations, allowing more water drainage from the IJsselmeer into the Wadden Sea.
  • Creating a cycling path over the full length of the Afsluitdijk to increase the recreational use of the dam, while widening the emergency lanes to make the adjacent motorway safer.

With more than 500 people from architecture, civil engineering, and construction working together during the design and preconstruction process, effective cross-discipline collaboration was the key challenge for the project’s success.

“We needed to reimagine the design and preconstruction phase by using a common data environment to create a shared view of all activities, dependencies, deadlines, and enquiries. A centralised platform would eliminate data silos, streamline review cycles, and extract real-time data for design coordination and review, quantity-take-off, and mark-ups.” says Yuri Grotewal, BIM Coordinator at Royal BAM Group.

The Solution

To solve the challenges represented by the complexity of the Afsluitdijk project and develop an ecosystem that supported multi-disciplinary teams, LEVVEL deployed solutions from the Autodesk Construction CloudTM – chiefly BIM 360 and Assemble. The team has used the tools together to integrate 3D modelling and create a single source of truth for greater efficiency, collaboration, and improved communication.

“BIM 360 is at the core of our collaboration process and has the most prominent role in the project,” says Ronald Huizinga, BIM Manager at Arcadis. “The latest model data is always available in 3D and 2D and is easily accessible by all project stakeholders. Without BIM 360, collaboration would be a nightmare.”

With a design team of up to 300 people, collaborating in a single environment was essential. Designers would upload models directly from Civil 3D and Revit into BIM 360 for design collaboration and coordination. Planners also used Dynamo and advanced scripting to speed up the design process, citing the tools’ ability to increase collaboration and automated publishes, interactivity, and the ability to work simultaneously. By providing the ability to create computational design, designers can produce concepts that iterate faster and earlier.

BIM 360 Model Coordination also helps during the design phase. Nearly 200 members of the design staff and 30 modelers were able to effectively collaborate during the Afsluitdijk project, avoiding the potential for costly rework. The entire team benefitted from automated clash detection and enhanced insight into the number of clashes, receiving instant feedback on the state of the model. “BIM 360 has become the beating heart of the design process within our organisation,” says Ronald.

Assemble is another critical solution used by the team to condition, query, and connect BIM data to key workflows, using the tool’s ability to provide upto- date visualisation of the total project status. With Assemble, the team can easily track, manage, and analyse model data. Multiple stakeholders can access Assemble to observe project quantities and stay up to date whenever a new model is published. This visibility results in significant efficiency gains on a project of this magnitude, which will play a vital role in the long-term management of the project. Viewing the geometry objects based on a predefined structure with their quantities has never been this easy.

The Results

The scale of the Afsluitdijk reinforcement is unique for the Netherlands. It represents the latest developments in dealing with rising sea levels, water safety, ecology, and sustainability, while building a safe and secure dam using state-of-the-art design and building software.

With the new and intuitive workflow for reviewing models, the team saves time, improves quality, and project insight. The digital model allowed designers to work on the project simultaneously through iterative review rounds with issues and mark-ups. Before this workflow, traditional rounds of review could take up to five days. With BIM 360, reviews are closed in one day, which is an 80% reduction in design coordination time.

The Autodesk aided design and analysis delivers 40,000 tonnes less CO2 emissions, a reduction of no less than 56% compared to alternative solutions. Each level-block of the dam receives a chip and is therefore easy to trace for maintenance. The blocks are transported via water and quickly assembled onsite with a minimal footprint.

By exploring automation possibilities early in the project, the team was able to understand where to improve based on process and repetitive manual workflows, resulting in time savings, efficient collaborative methods, and measurable results – all hallmarks of this project. The team was able to connect the phases of construction, producing a high-quality model during design that aided in deploying the right tools during preconstruction to mitigate errors downstream.

By using the most state-of-the-art risk management, sustainable construction methods as well as proven Autodesk technologies, it is expected that the dam will withstand a once-in-every-ten-thousand-year storm.

Quotation mark

"BIM 360 is at the core of our collaboration process and has the most prominent role in the project. The latest model data is always available in 3D and 2D and is easily accessible by all project stakeholders. Without BIM 360, collaboration would be a nightmare."

- Ronald Huizinga, BIM Manager

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