Bentley’s 2021 Year in Infrastructure Conference Highlights: Future-proofing Infrastructure for Climate Change and Unexpected Events

Published : Thursday, December 23, 2021, 11:13 am
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- Experts from Siemens, AEC Advisors Share the Benefits of Going Digital

The world is undergoing rapid change, with climate shifts, energy transitions, the push for smart cities, and the COVID-19 pandemic making up some of the pressures we now face. To meet these challenges and continue to serve the global community, infrastructure development must accelerate going digital to future-proof new development.

That message was shared by Bentley Systems’ leaders and event speakers, Matthias Rebellius, CEO of Siemens Smart Infrastructure and member of the managing board of Siemens AG along with Andrej Avelini, president of AEC Advisors. The event also showcased the winners in the annual Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure program, selected from nearly 300 nominations submitted by more than 230 organizations from 45 countries in 19 categories. They represent some of the world’s most innovative infrastructure projects and are exemplary in their project scope.


Day one began with a message from Rodrigo Fernandes, director, ES(D)G at Bentley. He explained how infrastructure construction and operations account for approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that society now has fewer than 10 years to transform our world and achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030.

“At Bentley, it is our mission to empower this transformation through our digital twin solutions, helping organizations, communities, and business leaders transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said. “No single player in this ecosystem can tackle emissions and climate emergency alone.”

CEO Greg Bentley then officially kicked off the conference. He said that while the restrictions of the pandemic prevented an in-person conference, it has also inspired Bentley and its partners to prioritize resilience and adaptation for infrastructure assets.

“I feel that we have learned a lot and progressed a lot in going digital over the course of the pandemic, which we didn’t anticipate,” he said.

As part of Bentley’s commitment to improve physical infrastructure for fitness to changing purposes and unexpected circumstances including pandemics, environmental concerns, and adaptation to necessary energy transitions, Greg said the company’s five-year strategic alliance with Siemens allows both companies to work in ways that will help address and solve these infrastructure challenges.

- Greg Bentley and Matthias Rebellius Discuss Future Proofing; Explain Their Enduring Partnership

Greg was then joined by Matthias Rebellius, CEO of Siemens Smart Infrastructure and member of the Siemens managing board. In their discussion, Greg said that while governments are moving toward allocating funding for “building back better,” trillions of dollars won’t help add infrastructure capacity. He said the opportunity lies in extending the life of our existing infrastructure assets safely, reliably and cleanly through digital twins.

“Building better must mean improving the resilience adaptation of these assets. And what we’re working on can make a big difference in what I might call future proofing,” Greg said. He cited the electrification of Europe’s rail systems as an example of where future proofing existing infrastructure is essential to achieving their net-zero goals. Greg explained that electrifying all of the remaining diesel rail networks needs to be done 10 times faster that it is currently, and more economically.

Greg said that while Siemens had its own 3D rail catenary design software, the company realized that rail engineers could improve their ability to electrify a rail system if they could integrate their catenary design software with other rail design functions. Bentley and Siemens partnered to generalize their software for any manufacturer’s equipment and incorporate it into the Bentley OpenRail environment. The alliance led to the development of OpenRail Overhead Line Designer, enabling rail designers to improve their efficiency.

“What was very farsighted, it seems to me, is for Siemens to say, we really need to make electrification better doable in order to future-proof the existing rail environment,” Greg said. “Doing that and pitching in to make it part of the overall rail design environment with Bentley will actually help us. It won't be proprietary to Siemens’ software any longer, but it will work so well that there’ll be more projects. It’ll work very well with Siemens.”

Matthias said that the answer cannot be to build new tracks and platforms, and finding an efficient way to leverage existing infrastructure makes sense. “Siemens Mobility and Bentley have partnered to deliver a blueprint of what we call the digital railway in the U.K,” he said. “So deployment unlocks the ETCS, the European Train Control System, as we call it, across the U.K. And this automatic train operation will increase the throughput significantly and make traveling more sustainable.” Matthias said the partnership Siemens entered with Bentley is of substantial length, as the European Train Control System will be deployed across the southern section of the mainline by 2029 followed by 30 years of maintenance.

Greg and Matthias also shared how Bentley and Siemens have converged Bentley’s OpenUtilities with Siemens’ SINCAL to create a cloud service that can improve electricity planning and help smaller utilities, such as Schwabisch Hall in Germany, meet their commitment to convert to 100% renewable energy by 2030. PlantSight, the flagship collaboration between Bentley and Siemens, is helping to build Germany’s largest carbon-free hydrogen generation plant in Wunsiedel, in Northeast Bavaria.

Lastly, they discussed Siemensstadt 2.0, Siemens’ work with Bentley and the city of Berlin to develop smart infrastructure that can provide a new way of living and working through a large-scale campus digital twin. The project aims to future-proof the city with a single digital thread along the whole lifecycle of design, construction, and maintenance.

“We began with R&D, but now that we have these services in the marketplace, we’re following them to where digital twins can lead us for new opportunities for future-proofing, for resilience, and for adaptation to improve people’s lives,” Greg said.

- Greg and Keith Bentley Share the Infrastructure Achievements of the Honoree Award Recipients

Greg was then joined by Bentley Systems’ founder and CTO, Keith Bentley. They highlighted the achievements of the 22 Founders’ Honorees, representing organizations or individuals whose undertakings contribute notably to infrastructure advancement and/or environmental and social development goals. The full list of 2021 Founders’ Honorees can be found here.

During their talk, Keith provided examples of how an open digital twin platform can help integrate many different sources of data and can incorporate future sources of information without having to rebuild the digital twin.

“An open platform becomes the mechanism by which we fuse all the information sources and the real time sources to make it a true digital twin,” he said.

To present an in-depth look on how to future-proof infrastructure engineering organizations, Greg introduced Andrej Avelini, president of AEC Advisors. He recently convened over 300 CEOs of architecture, engineering, and consulting companies, surveyed them, and identified four megatrends affecting the sector.

The first megatrend is infrastructure repair and harden, which will help grant resilience to climate change. The next is a commitment to ESG goals – environmental, social, and governance. The third is the energy transition to renewables. And the last megatrend is going digital, as the AEC industry is rapidly shifting from older technologies to data-driven digital technologies.

“In 20 years, half the value of an AEC firm is going to be based on their going digital initiatives that they're in the midst of today,” Andrej said.


- Nicholas Cumins Shares His Thoughts on How Infrastructure Continues to Rescue Humanity

Nicholas Cumins, chief product officer of Bentley Systems, opened the second day of the 2021 Year in Infrastructure Conference. He presented the teachings of Roman military commander, naturalist, and philosopher Pliny the Elder, who related how frequent shipwrecks and flooding in a low-lying coastal area was solved with the application of engineering, science, and technology to create drainage, dikes, and pumps. Today, environmental challenges have become global due to climate change, which brings more frequent floods, severe storms, extreme temperatures, and droughts. Nicholas said the social demand for more sustainable, resilient, and affordable infrastructure is higher than ever.

“We are facing a new moment of truth,” he said. “And it is our shared responsibility as the infrastructure engineering community, to advance infrastructure to meet the needs of our society and overcome the challenges of our time.”

Nicholas is optimistic that engineers, scientists, and technologists can continue to innovate and collaborate for a better future. For example, infrastructure digital twins are becoming bolstered by technology from Seequent, a Bentley business unit, as well as applications from two other recent Bentley acquisitions – sensemetrics and Vista Data Vision. These company’s applications can be combined with digital twin technology to provide clear insight into subsurface conditions for the first time, helping operators address risk and quickly take mitigation action before a significant earthquake event.

- Katriona Lord-Levins Unveils the Winners in the Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure

Katriona (Kat) Lord-Levins, chief success officer at Bentley, then celebrated the winners of the 2021 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure, which recognize the extraordinary work of Bentley software users advancing infrastructure design, construction, and operations throughout the world. Sixteen independent jury panels selected the 57 finalists from nearly 300 nominations submitted by more than 230 organizations from 45 countries encompassing 19 categories. Here is the full list of winners.

Kat then presented an award for a recently launched Bentley initiative, the Bentley Education program. Launched in spring 2021, the Bentley Education program helps students develop the digital skills that are critical for building a qualified talent pipeline for infrastructure. As part of this initiative, Bentley Education established the Future Infrastructure Star Challenge, which encouraged students from high school to higher education and technical schools to develop a concept or idea for how they can change the world with infrastructure. Kat announced the winners of the Judge’s Choice and the People’s Choice from 144 submissions.

The Judge’s Choice winner, which included a $5,000 prize, went to Elif Gungormus Deliismail from the University Izmir Institute of Technology in Turkey. On her project, “Mini-modular Plant for Digitized Sustainable Campus,” Elif used ContextCapture and drone technology to create a 3D model of a rural academic campus to illustrate how a mini-modular plant coupled with smart centralized energy management and low carbon fuel sources can transform energy performance.

“It makes me so proud that my project was recognized by such a leading company,” she said. “Self-sustaining buildings are next-generation, environmentally friendly architecture, which will hopefully be a significant issue for infrastructure development for [future] generations.”

The People’s Choice winner, which included a $2,000 prize, went to Rodman Raul Cordova Rodriguez from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for his “Innovative Dam and Hydroelectric Project.” He examined how to improve water supply capabilities and hydroelectric operations through the lifespan of a multipurpose dam.

“I was concerned about the alarming facts about energy crisis and water supply worldwide,” he said. “So, I took the opportunity to join the challenge and develop a creative, innovative, and sustainable idea in order to help solve the world’s real problems with the use of technology and recyclable materials.”

Watch the executive sessions and the Going Digital Awards winners and finalists’ presentations from the 2021 Year in Infrastructure and Going Digital Awards virtual event on-demand

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