Facility Management of Reclamation's Dams - The Unified Intelligent Model

Project ID: 9748
Principal Investigator: David Winslow
Research Topic: Repair and Maintenance
Funded Fiscal Years: 2016, 2017 and 2018
Keywords: None

Research Question

Reclamation constructed numerous dams and powerplants since 1902 utilizing traditional
engineering methods and equipment to produce two-dimensional (2D) engineering drawings for
design and construction activities. These drawings were drafted by hand until the 1980s when
computer aided design (CAD) was introduced in Reclamation. Engineering drawings are still the
main output of design and operations and maintenance (O&M) activities today. A major
disadvantage of engineering drawings is their focus on discrete components or systems with
little reference to adjacent or complementary systems. Recent advances in data capture, three
dimensional (3D) CAD models and building information modeling (BIM) have created options for
unified intelligent models far beyond current practices.
Using commercial off the shelf (COTS) software and equipment currently operated by
Reclamation and with assistance from Autodesk, can a unified intelligent model of a dam and
powerplant facility be created to foster enhanced facility management?
This intelligent model would serve as a basis for design, operation and management (O&M),
asset management, monitoring, security, and outreach / education. Overall facility operation
and management would be enhanced through managers and personnel having better
understanding of the facility and interrelated and interconnected systems.

Need and Benefit

Reclamation has constructed approximately 340 dams and over 50 powerplants since 1902.
Additional water diversion, carriage, and distribution facilities were also constructed. The useful
life of many of these dams is estimated to be several hundred years. The design of each of these
facilities required hundreds or thousands of engineering drawings. As the capabilities of
software and Reclamation users have increased, the effectiveness of these individual drawings,
while still important, has decreased. CAD has transformed from a replacement for 2D hand
drafting to incorporate 3D design and representations of specific parts and systems to facility
management models which address all lifecycle stages and incorporate data and inputs from
many disciplines and sources. This facility management model is termed Building Information
Modeling (BIM) and has mainly been applied to design, construction and lifecycle management of
buildings. Reclamation should move from current design processes where the end product is
engineering drawings to lifecycle management of the unified intelligent model. This will not only
improve the design process, but also facility management, O&M, safety and security.
This transformation will benefit all Reclamation regions. Design and construction personnel will
benefit through a better understanding of how a design is interrelated to other systems and
components of the facility. Facility management, security and operations personnel benefit by
having more information readily available from one interface. Maintenance personnel benefit
from increased access to updated system information. Public affairs personnel benefit from the
ability to create images and video presentations from the model.
Reclamation currently maintains experience with 2D and 3D CAD design, surveying, GPS, LIDAR
and laser scanning. BIM and UAS experience is being developed. The MP and LC regions have
acquired laser scanners. Autodesk also has the expertise to complete this project.
Although Reclamation maintains experience in many of the applications associated with this
project, the combination of applications on a large scale water resources facility such as a dam
and powerplant remains untested. This project would serve as a proof of concept and develop
Reclamation expertise, best practices, guidelines and procedures for completion of similar
projects. This project would serve as a prototype with applicability throughout Reclamation
Reclamation can continue to use the current engineering drawing design and construction
process, continue to manage with disparate applications and scattered data. However,
Reclamation's stewardship obligations suggest that the transformation from current processes
to the unified intelligent model should be undertaken sooner than later.
Over ten years ago, the proposer created a model of the cracks inside Glen Canyon dam to
determine whether the cracks were localized or interconnected. This dam safety work required
locating engineering drawings of the galleries, adits, stairwells and chambers in the dam
interior. Hundreds of drawings were utilized to create a 3D model of the interior. Site visits were
required to identify, photograph and locate the cracks. The crack information was added to the
3D model and link the photographs. Thousands of hours were expended to complete this
model. Had this model been created using the tasks and applications proposed for this project,
hundreds of hours would have been saved, while producing a better model.
This project will add to Reclamation knowledge as personnel benefit from Autodesk expertise in
creation and use of a facility model which utilizes existing Reclamation software. A main goal of
this project is to transfer capability to Reclamation personnel via onsite training.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Facility Management of Reclamation’s Dams – The Unified Intelligent Model (final, PDF, 130KB)
By David Winslow
R&D Bulletin completed on September 30, 2019

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20